Discrimination in the Publishing Industry?

51 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2020 Last revised: 14 Jan 2022

See all articles by Tin Cheuk Leung

Tin Cheuk Leung

Wake Forest University

Koleman S. Strumpf

Wake Forest University, Department of Economics

Date Written: January 14, 2022


There is growing attention to wage discrimination in labor markets, but it is challenging to formally show this is the root cause of wage gaps since individual-level data is often unavailable and other explanations like productivity differences are hard to measure. In this paper we examine book publishing using detailed panel data which includes author income, demographics, productivity, and employer. Historically under-represented groups received far lower incomes, and this gap has actually increased over time. Using current data we find that 1) male authors are paid more than female authors; 2) non-white authors are paid more than white authors (in opposition to conventional wisdom); 3) LGBQ authors are paid less than authors with straight sexual orientation. Some of these differences can be linked to productivity differences: non-white authors sell on average fifty percent books more than white authors. But others cannot: LGBQ authors sell more than straight authors. When we control for the prior book's success (sales or readers reviews), both the racial and gender pay gap shrink but are economically and statistically significant (and non-whites are paid less than whites because their books tend to be more successful). Similarly, we look at debut authors who do not have a track record and find that the pay gaps across demographic groups are larger than that among non-debut authors. Finally we show that the demographic composition of book publishing staff does not help explain the observed wage differences. In total the observed wage differences across racial, gender and sexual orientation groups can be more clearly linked to animus-based motives than other explanations such a statistical models of discrimination.

Keywords: publishing industry, race discrimination, gender discrimination

JEL Classification: J3, J7, L82, Z1

Suggested Citation

Leung, Tin Cheuk and Strumpf, Koleman S., Discrimination in the Publishing Industry? (January 14, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3660289 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3660289

Tin Cheuk Leung (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University ( email )

Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

Koleman S. Strumpf

Wake Forest University, Department of Economics ( email )

PO Box 7505
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States
336-758-5410 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://users.wfu.edu/strumpks

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics