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Study Ties Wage Disparities To Outlook on Gender Roles

The 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. Researchers said all the conclusions in the new study were based on comparisons between people in similar jobs, working similar hours, with similar qualifications.

"Some would say, 'Of course traditional men earn more than traditional women -- they are both fulfilling their desires to play different roles in the home and workplace,' " said Judge, emphasizing that the researchers compared working men with working women, not working men with women who stay home. "Our results do not support that view. If you were a traditional-minded woman, would you say, 'I am fine working the same hours as a traditional-minded man in the same industry with the same education but earning substantially less'? I don't think traditional-minded women would say that."

The empirical evidence in the study showed a connection between people's attitudes about gender roles and their salaries. It was not designed to explain why those disparities come about or how people's attitudes -- supposedly a private matter -- affect how much money they make.

Livingston and Judge said there are two possible explanations: Traditional-minded men might negotiate much harder for better salaries, especially when compared with traditional-minded women. Alternatively, it could also be that employers discriminate against women and men who do not subscribe to traditional gender roles.

"It could be that traditional men are hypercompetitive salary negotiators -- the Donald Trump prototype, perhaps," Judge said. "It could be on the employer side that, subconsciously, the men who are egalitarian are seen as effete."

Livingston, a doctoral candidate in management, added: "People make others uncomfortable when they disconfirm stereotypes -- we don't know how to interpret them."

Increasing numbers of Americans hold egalitarian views about the role of women in the workplace, and the researchers suggested that if attitudes about gender roles are indeed at the core of the long-standing wage gap, disparities in income might recede as egalitarian views become more prevalent.

Parents looking at the study might be tempted to inculcate their sons with traditional gender views with an eye to greater financial success, but the researchers warned that this would come at their daughters' cost -- traditional-minded women suffer the greatest income disadvantage for doing the same work.

"Traditional values," Judge said, "do not have to be traditional gender-role values."

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