The Gender Disclosure Gap: Salary History Bans Unravel When Men Volunteer their Income

71 Pages Posted: 11 May 2022 Last revised: 7 Mar 2024

See all articles by Bo Cowgill

Bo Cowgill

Columbia University - Columbia Business School

Amanda Y. Agan

Rutgers University, Department of Economics

Laura Gee

Tufts University; IZA

Date Written: May 9, 2022

Abstract

New laws aim to reduce inequality by limiting the information employers can seek. Although employers are forbidden from seeking certain information, workers are free to disclose voluntarily. A large survey of the US workforce shows that men are more likely to disclose their salaries unprompted, particularly when they believe that other candidates are volunteering. Women report higher disclosure costs (particularly non-pecuniary psychological or cultural costs), and are more likely to resist disclosing (even if others disclose). A simple theoretical model shows the importance of the disclosure costs, and of the accuracy of employer beliefs about group differences. We also show how a ban can affect both pay equality as well as workforce composition. Our survey finds disclosure patterns consistent with unraveling in the U.S. job market during 2019-2021. About 60% of workers believe salary history will be used to decide if they receive an offer at all (in addition to the composition terms in the offer). A large percentage of workers (28%) volunteer salary history, even when a ban prevents employers from asking. An additional 47% will disclose if enough rival job candidates disclose. Over our 1.5-year sample, unprompted volunteering of salaries increased by about 6-8 percentage points. Our results suggest that workers act as if non-disclosure is a negative signal.

Suggested Citation

Cowgill, Bo and Agan, Amanda Y. and Gee, Laura, The Gender Disclosure Gap: Salary History Bans Unravel When Men Volunteer their Income (May 9, 2022). Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 4104743, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4104743 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4104743

Bo Cowgill (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Amanda Y. Agan

Rutgers University, Department of Economics ( email )

New Jersey Hall
75 Hamilton St
08901, NJ Princeton 08540
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/site/amandayagan/

Laura Gee

Tufts University ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States

IZA

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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