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posted on 04 September 2016

Job Flexibility And The Gender Pay Gap

from the St Louis Fed

Research suggests that the gender pay gap is at least partly due to women working jobs with more flexible hours, which tend to pay less than those with more rigid hours.1 An article in The Regional Economist examined the changes in patterns of working jobs with flexibility in hours for both men and women.

Research Officer and Economist Limor Golan and Economist Maria Canon explained that "job flexibility," while a vague term, can be interpreted as having control over the timing of work. To measure this, the authors used data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. In it, respondents were asked, among other things, whether they worked irregular hours and, if so, whether these hours were due to personal reasons or job requirements.2 The authors wrote: "Thus, one may think of the ability to work irregular hours due to personal reasons as flexibility, while working irregular hours due to employer reasons as a form of inflexibility."

Golan and Canon sorted jobs into four categories:

  • Nonroutine cognitive occupations, which include professional occupations, management, business and financial

  • Routine cognitive, which includes sales, office and administrative work

  • Nonroutine manual, which is a broad category including service jobs

  • Routine manual, which includes construction and mining, installation, maintenance and repair, production and transportation

They focused on the nonroutine cognitive category, as a higher share of women worked in those occupations than in the other three categories. Golan and Canon found that, among those who worked irregular hours, the percentage of people (both men and women) in these jobs who worked irregular hours for personal reasons was relatively stable across the years studied (34.3 percent in 1997 versus 34.6 percent in 2004). However, the percentage of women in these occupations rose, going from 34.9 percent in 1997 to 46.8 percent in 2004.

Golan and Canon noted that technological changes could be behind such a shift. But, as they wrote: "If this is the case, then these patterns should also be observed for males." Over the same period, the percentage of males working irregular hours for personal reasons fell from 33.7 percent in 1997 to 23.9 percent in 2004. (A breakdown across all four job categories is available in The Regional Economistarticle "Gender Pay Gap May Be Linked to Flexible and Irregular Hours.")

The authors noted that, overall, a higher fraction of women work irregular hours due to personal reasons in almost all occupations, relative to men. Golan and Canon wrote: "This might be due to more work at home for women than men and more child care responsibilities for women than men."

Golan and Canon concluded: "Thus, to the extent that pay is related to the type of shifts that people work, it probably is important to further study differences in employment patterns of men and women in order to understand the persistence of the gender pay gap."

Notes and References

1 Goldin, Claudia. "A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter." American Economic Review, April 2014, Vol. 104, No. 4, pp. 1,091-119.

2 These particular questions were included in the CPS Work Schedules Supplement, which was intermittently included in the CPS. The latest three supplements were from 1997, 2001 and 2004, which are what was used in this analysis.

Additional Resources



Views expressed are not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis or of the Federal Reserve System.

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