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Applied Economics: What works for firms and the gender pay gap?

Department of Economics

, Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

A vast literature has studied the determinants of gender pay gaps (see for reviews Altonji and Blank, 1999; Weichselbaumer and Winter-Ebmer, 2005; Blau and Kahn, 2017). Explanations for the labour market differences between men and women are typically grouped into three broad categories: productivity, preferences and discrimination, which are all interrelated (Altonji and Blank, 1999). However, with the diminishing of gender gaps in the majority of developed countries, the importance and focus on explanations from the first category, especially human capital-based ones, has lessened. Nonetheless, pay gaps persist and are pervasive. More recent work has looked to gender differences in preferences and psychological attributes, and how these impact on productivity, choices and beliefs (see for reviews Croson and Gneezy, 2009; Bertrand, 2011; Azmat and Petrongolo, 2014). The role of firms, in particular where men and women work, cuts across across these sets of explanations. Early work found that women in the US were more likely to work for lower wage firms than men, and vice versa regarding higher wage firms (Blau, 1977; Groshen, 1991; Bayard et al., 2003). More recent studies have found that low wage growth within an establishment for women plays a bigger role in the US gender pay gap than how women are (not) sorted into higher wage firms (Goldin et al., 2017; Barth et al., 2017). More widely and in several countries, studies have begun to document the importance of which firms men and women work for in accounting for the level and trends of the gender pay gap (e.g. US: Sorkin, 2017; Portugal: Card et al., 2016, Cardoso et al., 2016; Germany: Bruns, 2018; France: Coudin et al., 2018; Denmark: Gallen et al., 2017; UK: Jewell et al., 2018).
Even as it becomes clearer that firms have an important role to playing in closing the gender pay gap throughout the earnings distribution, there is a significant evidence gap in understanding what particular firm-based policies and management practices work for both the individual firm and gender equality. Filling this evidence gap will allow advice to be given on effective future policy making in this area.
This project will involve working with secure access sources of UK data. Due to the nature of the datasets and access requirements, distance learning is not possible. The PhD student would benefit from working as a team n this project with at least 2 established academics in the Department of Economics at the University of Reading, one of whom would be the PhD supervisor. They can expect to coauthor research outputs (publications) with these academics, which would contribute to some part to their PhD thesis. In addition, they would develop their own independent research agenda, advised by their supervision team and building on what they learn from collaboration with on the project. This would contribute to the remainder of their PhD thesis.
Ideally the PhD student would have experience of handling large datasets, statistical software such as SAS, SPSS, Stata or R, and have studied MSc level topics in microeconometrics and labour economics.

Funding Notes

Applicants should be able to self-fund. Once an offer is made, some bespoke support may be given with regards applying for external sources of funding to cover some costs.

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