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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Study on The Gender Pay Gap in an Anonymous Online Labor Market

The U.S. is witnessing a dramatic rise in nontraditional ‘gig economy’ labor markets where workers are hired for single projects often on a short-term basis. Research conducted by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Healthand examined the work of over 20,000 men and women completing over 5 million tasks online, and found a gender pay gap not accounted for by demographics, task preferences, or experience. On average, women’s hourly earnings were 10.5% lower than men’s. This is the first study to provide evidence that pay gaps can arise despite the absence of overt discrimination, labor segregation, and inflexible work arrangements. Findings are in PlosOne.

“Our goal was to examine a highly unique labor environment, characterized by factors that should make this labor market relatively immune to a gender pay gap. Nevertheless, our results showed evidence of wage gap not fully accounted for by task heterogeneity, experience, and task completion speed,” said Dr. Lisa Bates, assistant professor of epidemiology.

The researchers collected data from the Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform that connects employers (‘requesters’) to employees (‘workers’) who perform jobs called “Human Intelligence Tasks” (HITs). Nearly 5 million tasks completed between in 2016 to June 2017 by 12,312 female and 9,959 male workers show that men and women completed comparable numbers of tasks; 2.4 million for men and 2.5 million for women.

“This study represents an important and novel contribution to the literature on the gender pay gap,” said Dr. Bates. “Future research should explore the observed gender pay gap in this niche of the gig economy and seek to understand how it may both reflect broader gender inequalities and point to opportunities for structural remedies.”

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