BOX 1-3

The Economist’s Perspectivea

  • Economists view the world as being organized by markets, and assume that markets matter. Thus, supply and demand determine employment outcomes.

  • Economists assume that equally productive workers will be paid the same. Thus, we should not observe gender differences provided that men and women are equally productive.

  • Discrimination exists, but market competition will remove it. In other words, if you have a perfectly competitive market, some employer can exploit the fact that it is not paying women enough, hire only women, and then become more profitable.


aGary Becker won the Nobel prize in economics in part for his theories of discrimination. GS Becker (1971). The Economics of Discrimination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

What explains the differential employment outcomes in science and engineering fields? To examine hiring, promotion, and salary, Ginther used the 1973-2001 waves of the Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR).60 Because the SDR is longitudinal, respondents can be tracked over time. She split the data into fields: life sciences (agriculture, food science, and biology), physical sciences (chemistry, earth sciences, physics, and mathematics), engineering, and social science (economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, and political science). Control variables include the demographic variables of gender, race, and age; academic field and degree; rank and tenure status; and institutional characteristics (Carnegie rankings, public or private). She included control variables for primary work activities which indicate whether the respondent primarily teaches, does research, manages, or engages in another activity. She also included an indicator for whether a respondent receives government support and some measures of publications.

Ginther’s research shows again that women’s representation depends on field (Figure 1-7). Since the 1970s there has been tremendous growth in the number of doctorates awarded to women. In the physical sciences, there is still anemic representation of women, but in the life sciences and the social sciences (except in economics) half or more of doctorates are awarded to women.


From 1987 to 1995 the SDR also followed people in the humanities; for these years, Ginther includes humanities in her analysis.

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