The Gender Disclosure Gap: Salary History Bans Unravel When Men Volunteer their Income
60 Pages Posted: 11 May 2022 Last revised: 18 Sep 2023
Date Written: May 9, 2022
New laws aim to reduce historical inequalities by limiting the information employers can seek. Although employers are forbidden from seeking certain information, workers are free to disclose voluntarily. We study these bans through the lens of disclosure theory. 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 psychological costs of disclosing, and are more likely to resist unraveling. A simple theoretical model shows the importance of the psychological costs of disclosing, and of the coarseness of employer beliefs about group differences. Our survey finds evidence of these mechanisms, as well as disclosure patterns consistent with unraveling in the U.S. job market. 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. Between November 2019 and May 2021, unprompted volunteering of salaries increased by about 6-8 percentage points. Consistent with disclosure theory, workers act as if silence is a negative signal.
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