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The Salary Taboo: Privacy Norms and the Diffusion of Information

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  • Zoë B. Cullen
  • Ricardo Perez-Truglia

Abstract

The diffusion of salary information has implications for labor markets, such as wage discrimination policies and collective bargaining. Access to salary information is believed to be limited and unequal, but there is little direct evidence on the sources of these information frictions. Social scientists have long conjectured that privacy norms around salary (i.e., the “salary taboo”) play an important role. We provide unique evidence of this phenomenon based on a field experiment with 755 employees at a large commercial bank in Southeast Asia. We show that many of its employees are both unwilling to reveal their salaries to coworkers and reluctant to ask coworkers about their salaries. These frictions persist, in smaller magnitude, when sharing less sensitive information on seniority. We discuss implications for pay transparency policies and the gender wage gap.

Suggested Citation

  • Zoë B. Cullen & Ricardo Perez-Truglia, 2018. "The Salary Taboo: Privacy Norms and the Diffusion of Information," NBER Working Papers 25145, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25145
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Baker & Yosh Halberstam & Kory Kroft & Alexandre Mas & Derek Messacar, 2023. "Pay Transparency and the Gender Gap," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 15(2), pages 157-183, April.
    2. Gamage, Danula K. & Kavetsos, Georgios & Mallick, Sushanta & Sevilla, Almudena, 2020. "Pay Transparency Initiative and Gender Pay Gap: Evidence from Research-Intensive Universities in the UK," IZA Discussion Papers 13635, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Emma Duchini & Stefania Simion & Arthur Turrell & Jack Blundell, 2020. "Pay Transparency and Gender Equality," Papers 2006.16099, arXiv.org, revised Dec 2022.
    4. Ricardo Perez-Truglia, 2020. "The Effects of Income Transparency on Well-Being: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 110(4), pages 1019-1054, April.
    5. Frimmel, Wolfgang & Schmidpeter, Bernhard & Wiesinger, Rene & Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf, 2023. "External pay transparency and the gender wage gap," Ruhr Economic Papers 1027, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    6. Morten Bennedsen & Elena Simintzi & Margarita Tsoutsoura & Daniel Wolfenzon, 2022. "Do Firms Respond to Gender Pay Gap Transparency?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 77(4), pages 2051-2091, August.
    7. Matthias Fahn & Giorgio Zanarone, 2022. "Transparency in relational contracts," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(5), pages 1046-1071, May.
    8. Wolfgang Frimmel & Bernhard Schmidpeter & Rene Wiesinger & Rudolf Winter-Ebmer, 2022. "Mandatory Wage Posting, Bargaining and the Gender Wage Gap," Economics working papers 2022-02, Department of Economics, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Austria.
    9. Косулиев, Александър, 2019. "Заплатата (Не) Е Посочена. Анализ На Обяви За Работа От Русе [When employers post their wage? Analysis of job adverts from Ruse, Bulgaria]," MPRA Paper 104585, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    10. Jason J Sandvik & Richard E Saouma & Nathan T Seegert & Christopher T Stanton, 2020. "Workplace Knowledge Flows," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 135(3), pages 1635-1680.
    11. Michelle Acampora & Francesco Capozza & Vahid Moghani, 2022. "Mental Health Literacy, Beliefs and Demand for Mental Health Support among University Students," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 22-079/I, Tinbergen Institute.
    12. Matthew Caulfield, 2021. "Pay Secrecy, Discrimination, and Autonomy," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 171(2), pages 399-420, June.
    13. Andrea Guido & Alejandro Martinez-Marquina & Ryan Rholes, 2022. "Reference Dependence and the Role of Information Frictions," GREDEG Working Papers 2022-17, Groupe de REcherche en Droit, Economie, Gestion (GREDEG CNRS), Université Côte d'Azur, France.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • M5 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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