Why Do Women Earn Less Than Men? Evidence from Bus and Train Operators (Job Market Paper)

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Even in a unionized environment where work tasks are similar, hourly wages are identical,
and tenure dictates promotions, female workers earn $0.89 on the male-worker dollar
(weekly earnings). We use confidential administrative data on bus and train operators from
the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to show that the weekly earnings
gap can be explained entirely by the workplace choices that women and men make. Women value time and flexibility more than men, possibly due to a combination of preferences and personal life constraints. Women take more unpaid time off using the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and work fewer overtime hours than men. When overtime hours are scheduled three months in advance, men and women work a similar number of hours; but when those hours are offered at the last minute, men work nearly twice as many overtime hours. When selecting work schedules, women try to avoid weekend, holiday, and split shifts more than men. To avoid unfavorable work times, women prioritize their schedules over route safety and select routes with a higher probability of accidents. Women are less likely than men to game the scheduling system by trading off work hours at regular wages for overtime hours at premium wages. Conditional on seniority, which dictates choice sets, the weekly earnings gap can be explained entirely by differences in operator choices of hours, schedules, and routes. These results suggest that increasing workplace flexibility can reduce the gender earnings gap and disproportionately increase the well-being of female workers.

Last updated on 11/15/2018