The Effect of Task Choice and Task Assignment on the Gender Earnings Gap: An Experimental Study
task choice effect; task assignment effect, gender; experiment
European Economic Review
Previous studies explain the gender earnings gap by gender differences in choosing competitive and higher-paying jobs. However, little is known about whether and how women’s earnings are affected when they choose more challenging jobs. In this study, we use a novel identification strategy to investigate 1) how the gender earnings gap arises from individuals’ self-selecting into different tasks and 2) whether mobilizing women to work on the tasks typically preferred by men increases women’s earnings and decreases the earnings gap. Our results show that men who prefer the hard and higher-paid task are more likely to obtain higher earnings regardless of the task they are assigned. In contrast, we find that women obtain higher earnings when they work on a hard and higher-paid task even if their initial take choice is the easy and lower-paid one. Our findings are consistent and robust across task stereotypes. Our results imply that mobilizing women to work on more challenging and rewarding tasks is likely to reduce the gender earnings gap.