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Atlanta Fed Working Papers


Does Science Discriminate against Women? Evidence from Academia, 1973–97

Donna K. Ginther
Working Paper 2001-2
February 2001

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This study uses data from the Survey of Doctorate Recipients to evaluate differences in employment outcomes for academic scientists by gender. A decomposition of estimated salary differences shows that over time, gender salary differences can partly be explained by differences in observable characteristics for faculty at the assistant and associate ranks. Substantial gender salary differences for full professors are not explained by observable characteristics. Probit and duration model estimates indicate gender differences in the probability of promotion, making it less likely for women to be promoted to tenure. Between 1973 and 1997, very little changed in terms of gender salary and promotion differences for academics in science. After evaluating potential explanations, the author concludes that gender discrimination similar to that observed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology accounts for unexplained gender disparities.

JEL classification: J4, J71

Key words: science, gender discrimination, salary, promotion


The author gratefully acknowledges Rodger Erickson, Robert Pollak, Paula Stephan, and Madeline Zavodny for helpful comments. She also thanks the National Science Foundation for granting a site license to use the data and Kelly Kang of the NSF for providing technical documentation. Seminar participants at the Claiming the Past Conference on Women in Science and Southern Economic Association Meetings provided valuable comments on the research. The views expressed here are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the author’s responsibility.

Please address questions regarding content to Donna K. Ginther, Research Department, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 104 Marietta Street, N.W., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-2713, 404-498-7009, Donna.Ginther@atl.frb.org.

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