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Rhetoric in Economic Research: The Case of Gender Wage Differentials

  • Weichselbaumer, Doris
  • Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf

Scientific rhetoric can have a profound impact on the perception of research; it can also drive and direct further research efforts. What determines whether results are discussed in a neutral or a judgmental way? How precise and convincing must results be so that authors call for significant policy changes? These questions are in general difficult to answer, because rhetoric on the one hand, and content and methodology of the paper on the other, cannot be separated easily. We, therefore, use a unique example to examine this question empirically: the analysis of gender wage differentials. Here, the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition represents a standard research method that compares male and female earnings, holding productivity constant. We analyse close to 200 papers to investigate what drives authors to talk about ‘discrimination’, whether and when they call for policy activism or when they are more hesitant to do so. Furthermore, we examine whether the rhetoric used really reveals an author's prejudice on the topic, which may also be reflected in data selection and thereby his or her findings.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 4128.

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Date of creation: Dec 2003
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:4128
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  1. Doris Weichselbaumer & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2005. "A Meta-Analysis of the International Gender Wage Gap," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 19(3), pages 479-511, 07.
  2. Peter M. DeMarzo & Dimitri Vayanos & Jeffrey Zwiebel, 2003. "Persuasion bias, social influence, and uni-dimensional opinions," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 454, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
  4. Randall S. Brown & Marilyn Moon & Barbara S. Zoloth, 1980. "Incorporating Occupational Attainment in Studies of Male-Female Earnings Differentials," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 15(1), pages 3-28.
  5. McCloskey, Donald N, 1983. "The Rhetoric of Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 21(2), pages 481-517, June.
  6. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
  7. T.D. Stanley & Stephen B. Jarrell, 1998. "Gender Wage Discrimination Bias? A Meta-Regression Analysis," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(4), pages 947-973.
  8. Reimers, Cordelia W, 1983. "Labor Market Discrimination against Hispanic and Black Men," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(4), pages 570-79, November.
  9. David Neumark, 1988. "Employers' Discriminatory Behavior and the Estimation of Wage Discrimination," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 23(3), pages 279-295.
  10. Jacques Silber & Michal Weber, 1999. "Labour market discrimination: are there significant differences between the various decomposition procedures?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 31(3), pages 359-365.
  11. Victor R. Fuchs & Alan B. Krueger & James M. Poterba, 1998. "Economists' Views about Parameters, Values, and Policies: Survey Results in Labor and Public Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(3), pages 1387-1425, September.
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