Research on work and family

In writing my last post, I also found a couple of fascinating bits of research that have been made possible by HILDA – the Household Income Labour and Dynamics longitudinal survey which has been collecting data since 2001.

Glass Ceiling or Sticky Floor? – this is a fascinating piece of research into the gender pay gap. It uses the HILDA data to investigate the pay gap between men and women. It corrects as much as possible for all the factors that you might expect to influence pay (age, years of employment, education levels, marital status) and then investigates the gap between pay rates. The interesting thing is that this investigation is for quintiles of the pay distribution – i.e. it looks at whether the gap changes depending on how much you get paid. 

For private sector employees, there is a much bigger percentage gap for highly paid workers than low paid workers (after correcting for things like education). And the overall gap is higher. So the conclusion is that there really does appear to be a glass ceiling – at least in the private sector. The higher up the scale you go, the harder it is to get paid as much as an equivalent man. For public sector workers, the gap is fairly even at all levels of pay

Maternity Leave and the evidence for Compensating Wage differentials – this isn’t available for free, but the abstract suggests that women who are eligible for paid maternity leave will be paid less, all else being equal, than women who aren’t. A good reason for paid maternity leave to be at a government, rather than private employer level, in my view – small employers are never going to be able to afford serious paid maternity leave, particularly for women in jobs without high skill requirements. But that doesn’t mean the paid maternity leave wouldn’t be a good idea for society as a whole.

Female Breadwinner Families – this research looks at the families in the HILDA data (defined as couples with or without children) who have female breadwinners (defined as those where the woman is paid at least 10% more than the man). This was 13.9% of all families during both suveys (as a longitudinal study, HILDA data is at at least two dates), and 20% in each survey (so there is a fair bit of movement in who is breadwinner in families year by year).

The hypothesis is that there are two types of female breadwinner families – those there by economic necessity, and those who are there by deliberate equity choice. The study split between the two types by looking at responses to questions about gender roles, and then checked whether there was a distinction between the two groups in any other way. The “economic choice” households were most (around 80%) of the female breadwinner families.

Interesting, but I didn’t think it gave any particularly strong policy perspectives. The equity families tended to be younger, better educated, and have more children. The mother spent more time with the children than the father in the “economic choice” households, and the father spent more time in the “equity choice” households. Housework was shared equally in the “equity choice” households, and the mother did the lions share in the “economic choice households”. 

Which goes to show that housework is much harder to shift from women to men than childcare, because it’s much less fun.

  2 comments for “Research on work and family

  1. April 30, 2007 at 3:35 am

    I’ll have to make sure I have a look at those references as I expect to be spending a fair bit of time with the UK’s equivalent of hilda over the next few weeks. A bunch of other reports offer similar evidence as to these kinds of biases in other contexts though what interests me is how everything in the workplace seems to reinforce that kind of gendered attitude (father =breadwinner, mother=homemaker) to the detriment of both

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