Men with egalitarian attitudes about the role of women in society earn significantly less on average than men who hold more traditional views about women's place in the world, according to a study being reported today.
It is the first time social scientists have produced evidence that large numbers of men may be victims of gender-related income disparities.
The study raises the provocative possibility that a substantial part of the widely discussed gap in income between men and women who do the same work is really a gap between men with a traditional outlook and everyone else – rather than a gap between men and women per se.
The differences found in the study were substantial. Men with traditional attitudes about gender roles earned $11,930 more a year than men with egalitarian views, and $14,404 more than women with traditional attitudes. The comparisons were based on men and women working in the same kinds of jobs with the same levels of education and putting in the same number of hours per week.
While men with a traditional outlook earned the most, women with a traditional outlook earned the least. The wage gap between working men and women with a traditional attitude was more than 10 times larger than the wage gap between men and women with egalitarian views.
If you divide workers into four groups — men with traditional attitudes, men with egalitarian attitudes, women with traditional attitudes and women with egalitarian attitudes — men with traditional attitudes earn far more for the same work than those in any of the other groups. There are small disparities among the three disadvantaged groups, but the bulk of the income disparity is between the first group and the rest.
“When we think of the gender wage gap, most of our focus goes to the women side of things,” said Beth Livingston, a co-author of the new study. “This article says a lot of the difference may be in men's salaries.”
Livingston said she was taken aback by the result.
“We actually thought maybe men with traditional attitudes work in more complex jobs that pay more or select into higher paying occupations,” she said. “Regardless of the jobs people chose, or how long they worked at them, there was still a significant effect of gender role attitudes on income.”
The study, published in the September issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, is based on longitudinal information collected by a federal government survey administered every two years to more than 12,000 people over a quarter century. The U.S. Department of Labor's National Longitudinal Survey of Youth began tracking people in 1979 when they were between 14 and 22 years old. The group is now between 43 and 51 years old.
Since many participants in the survey were children when it started, incomes for both men and women changed dramatically over the 25 years that Livingston and co-author Timothy Judge studied.
Averaged over the quarter century, salaries ranged from $34,725 for working men with traditional attitudes to $20,321 for working women with traditional attitudes. Working men with egalitarian attitudes made $22,795 on average, while working women with egalitarian attitudes made $21,373.
Livingston and Judge, who are both organizational psychologists at the University of Florida, compared people's incomes over time to their evolving views on whether a woman's place is in the home and whether it is better for men to be the only breadwinners.
People who endorsed distinct roles in society for men and women were considered to have traditional views, while those who advocated equal roles for men and women at home and in the workplace were classified as having egalitarian views.
The study offers an unusual window into the persistent gender disparities in income that have been observed for decades.
Critics of the gender-gap theory regularly suggest that the gap between men and women is an artifact of the career choices that men and women make, or the different hours that men and women work.
Those critics argue that more men choose higher paying professions such as law and business and more women choose lower-paying professions such as education and social work, and that men tend to work longer hours than women.
Livingston and Judge said there are two possible explanations: Traditional-minded men may negotiate much harder for better salaries, especially when compared to traditional- minded women.
Alternatively, it could also be that employers discriminate against both women and men who do not subscribe to traditional gender roles.