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Biological Gender Differences, Absenteeism and the Earning Gap

  • Ichino, Andrea

    ()

    (European University Institute)

  • Moretti, Enrico

    ()

    (University of California, Berkeley)

In most Western countries illness-related absenteeism is higher among female workers than among male workers. Using the personnel dataset of a large Italian bank, we show that the probability of an absence due to illness increases for females, relative to males, approximately 28 days after a previous illness. This difference disappears for workers age 45 or older. We interpret this as evidence that the menstrual cycle raises female absenteeism. Absences with a 28-day cycle explain a significant fraction of the male-female absenteeism gap. To investigate the effect of absenteeism on earnings, we use a simple signaling model in which employers cannot directly observe workers' productivity, and therefore use observable characteristics – including absenteeism – to set wages. Since men are absent from work because of health and shirking reasons, while women face an additional exogenous source of health shocks due to menstruation, the signal extraction based on absenteeism is more informative about shirking for males than for females. Consistent with the predictions of the model, we find that the relationship between earnings and absenteeism is more negative for males than for females. Furthermore, this difference declines with seniority, as employers learn more about their workers' true productivity. Finally, we calculate the earnings cost for women associated with menstruation. We find that higher absenteeism induced by the 28-day cycle explains 11.8 percent of the earnings gender differential.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2207.

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Length: 57 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 2009, 1(1), 183-218
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2207
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  1. Hotz, V Joseph & Miller, Robert A, 1988. "An Empirical Analysis of Life Cycle Fertility and Female Labor Supply," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(1), pages 91-118, January.
  2. Barmby, T A & Orme, C D & Treble, John G, 1991. "Worker Absenteeism: An Analysis Using Microdata," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(405), pages 214-29, March.
  3. Alesina, Alberto & Ichino, Andrea & Karabarbounis, Loukas, 2007. "Gender Based Taxation and the Division of Family Chores," IZA Discussion Papers 3233, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  5. Yan Chen & Peter Katuscak & Emre Ozdenoren, 2005. "Why Can’t a Woman Bid More Like a Man?," CERGE-EI Working Papers wp275, The Center for Economic Research and Graduate Education - Economic Institute, Prague.
  6. Bridges, Sarah & Mumford, Karen, 2001. "Absenteeism in the UK: A Comparison across Genders," Manchester School, University of Manchester, vol. 69(3), pages 276-84, June.
  7. Manski, C.F., 1991. "Identification of Endogenous Social Effects: the Reflection Problem," Working papers 9127, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  8. Edward Lazear & Paul Oyer, 2004. "The Structure of Wages and Internal Mobility," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 212-216, May.
  9. Ichino, Andrea & Maggi, Giovanni, 2000. "Work Environment And Individual Background: Explaining Regional Shirking Differentials In A Large Italian Firm," CEPR Discussion Papers 2387, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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  11. Ichino, Andrea & Riphahn, Regina T., 2001. "The Effect of Employment Protection on Worker Effort: A Comparison of Absenteeism During and After Probation," IZA Discussion Papers 385, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Paringer, Lynn, 1983. "Women and Absenteeism: Health or Economics?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(2), pages 123-27, May.
  13. Ichino, Andrea & Polo, Michele & Rettore, Enrico, 2003. "Are judges biased by labor market conditions?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(5), pages 913-944, October.
  14. Milgrom, Paul & Oster, Sharon, 1987. "Job Discrimination, Market Forces, and the Invisibility Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(3), pages 453-76, August.
  15. Skogman Thoursie, Peter, 2002. "Reporting Sick: Are Sporting Events Contagious?," Research Papers in Economics 2002:4, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
  16. Janet Currie & Rosemary Hyson, 1999. "Is the Impact of Health Shocks Cushioned by Socioeconomic Status? The Case of Low Birthweight," NBER Working Papers 6999, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Holmstrom, Bengt, 1999. "Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(1), pages 169-82, January.
  18. Kiefer, Nicholas M, 1988. "Economic Duration Data and Hazard Functions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 26(2), pages 646-79, June.
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