The study was published by Andreas Liebbrant and John A. List on August 23, 2012 and is entitled Do Women Avoid Salary Negotiations? Evidence From A Large-Scale Natural Field Experiment [NBER working paper #18511]. The first author graciously sent me a copy; it is also available at I think it sheds light on our just released alert on the AAUW report on the gender wage gap. The AAUW report concludes that even after controlling for relevant covariates, there remains roughly 7% of unexplained variance relating to higher salaries for men than women. The report by Liebbrant and List sheds light on that variance.

The study itself had a major manipulation. Among applicants who submitted resumes for vacancies posted on city-specific Internet job boards (roughly 25,000 of them), some were told that salary was negotiable, whereas others were not. Otherwise, the feedback (all via email) for these to groups was identical. Ten of the applicants ultimately received job offers. The major findings were (1) men were more likely to initiate salary negotiations than females (10.6% versus 8.2%) among those who did not receive the “salary negotiable” clause. However, (2) women were more likely than men, albeit slightly (23.9% versus 22.0%) than men to initiate negotiations if the received the “salary negotiable” clause. Acknowledging that there were constraints in the study (e.g., small sample size), the authors conclude, among other things, that having “details of the contract environment have important effects on the gender gap, and with such knowledge, public officials can design laws to take advantage of such effects”, reducing the gender gap by approximately 45%.

These are intriguing findings, and readers interested in this topic are urged to read the entire report.


by Art Gutman Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

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