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26-06-2020

The gender wage gap: an analysis of US congressional staff members

Journal:
Public Choice
Authors:
Peter T. Calcagno, Meg M. Montgomery
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Abstract

The gender wage gap has been a concern in the United States since the mid-twentieth century. Congress and some states have enacted and continue to advocate equal pay legislation. We extend the analysis to Congress itself, which is important for two reasons. First, members of Congress are pushing equal pay for men and women in an attempt to produce an outcome in the private economy that they may not be able to achieve. Second, the discussion of the so-called gender pay gap has focused on private sector wage differences, but the incentive structure facing public sector actors is very different, namely the absence of a profit motive and a residual claimant. Political institutions may allow Congress to shirk in closing the wage gap among staffers. The literature on the gender pay gap emphasizes that labor market structures along with differences in gender-based preferences and occupational choices may be more salient in explaining the wage gap. We investigate the gender wage gap in congressional offices using panel data from 2000 to 2016 using a Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition. We control for human capital, office characteristics, and individual-level demographics. Regardless of specification, we find that a gender wage gap exists across staffers similar to the gap in the private sector. Our findings suggest that if Congress wants to close the wage gap, it could find ways of allowing labor markets to provide employees greater flexibility including their own saffers.

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