Family Leave and the Gender Wage Gap

George Washington University Law School, Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper No. 001

97 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 1999

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: August 22, 1999


In this article, I argue that the key to achieving greater gender equality in the workplace is finding a way to change the behavior of men with respect to the care of children. Until now, most suggestions have focused on changing the behavior of women or employers, but women continue to face significant disadvantages in the workplace despite substantial changes in their labor force behavior. In the first part of the article, I analyze the latest data and conclude that the gender pay gap reflects both women's actual labor market behavior, which still differs from men's, and employers' exaggerated responses to the expectation that women will leave the workforce to have and to raise children. Through a short empirical analysis, I then demonstrate that the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) falls far short of providing the kind of relief that might improve gender inequality, and in the last section I propose that the leave law be amended with an eye on equality. In particular, I propose that we create a contract set-aside program tied to employers establishing generous and successful leave policies.

Note: A revised version of this working paper is forthcoming in North Carolina Law Review, March 2000.

JEL Classification: J0, J2, J3

Suggested Citation

Selmi, Michael L., Family Leave and the Gender Wage Gap (August 22, 1999). George Washington University Law School, Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper No. 001, Available at SSRN: or

Michael L. Selmi (Contact Author)

Arizona State College of Law ( email )

111 E. Taylor Street
Phoenix, AZ AZ 85016
United States
7814050631 (Phone)
85281 (Fax)

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