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Are Female Workers Less Productive Than Male Workers?


  • Petersen, Trond
  • Snartland, Vermund
  • Meyersson Milgrom, Eva M.


This paper addresses whether there are productivity differences between men and women among blue-collar workers. We compare the wages under piece- and time-rate contracts of men and women working in the same occupation in the same establishment in three countries: the U.S., Norway, and Sweden. The findings are summarized in four points. First, the gender wage gap is smaller under piece- than under time-rate work. According to the interpretation put forth here, two thirds of the gap at the occupation–establishment level is due to productivity differences, while one third is not “accounted for†, but could be due to discrimination or experience or other factors. Productivity differences between sexes in typically male-dominated blue-collar industries are however very small, of 1–3%: Sweden 1%, U.S. 2% and Norway 3%. Second, in age groups where women on average have extensive family obligations, the wage gap is larger than in other age groups. Third, under time-rate work, the wage gap is more or less independent of supposed occupation-based productivity differences between men and women, while under piece-rate work, the wage gap mirrors quite closely assumed productivity differences, with women receiving a wage premium in female-advantageous settings and a penalty in male-advantageous settings. Fourth, in contrast to Sweden, in Norway and the U.S. women sort more often into piece-rate work than men.

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  • Petersen, Trond & Snartland, Vermund & Meyersson Milgrom, Eva M., 2006. "Are Female Workers Less Productive Than Male Workers?," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt5619b3vh, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:indrel:qt5619b3vh

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Uri Gneezy & Muriel Niederle & Aldo Rustichini, 2003. "Performance in Competitive Environments: Gender Differences," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(3), pages 1049-1074.
    2. Henry Sanborn, 1964. "Pay Differences between Men and Women," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 17(4), pages 534-550, July.
    3. Lazear, Edward P, 1986. "Salaries and Piece Rates," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(3), pages 405-431, July.
    4. Waldfogel, Jane, 1998. "The Family Gap for Young Women in the United States and Britain: Can Maternity Leave Make a Difference?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(3), pages 505-545, July.
    5. Cox, Donald & Nye, John Vincent, 1989. "Male-Female Wage Discrimination in Nineteenth-Century France," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 903-920, December.
    6. Edith Abbott & S. P. Breckinridge, 1911. "Women in Industry: The Chicago Stockyards," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19, pages 632-632.
    7. Gunderson, Morley, 1975. "Male-Female Wage Differentials and the Impact of Equal Pay Legislation," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 57(4), pages 462-469, November.
    8. Petersen, Trond, 1991. "Reward Systems and the Distribution of Wages," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 130-158, Special I.
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