Rhetoric in Economic Research: The Case of Gender Wage Differentials
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 convincing must results be so that authors call for significant policy changes? These questions are difficult to answer, because rhetoric on the one hand, and content and methodology of research on the other hand, cannot be separated easily. We use a unique example to examine this question empirically: the analysis of gender wage differentials. The Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition represents a standard research method that compares male and female earnings, holding productivity constant. We analyze the wording in these studies and their prevalence to ask for policy intervention. Furthermore, we examine whether the rhetoric used 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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