Ann Owen

A paper by Ann Owen, the Henry Platt Bristol Chair of Public Policy and Professor of Economics, and Andrew Wei ’20 was recently published online ahead of its inclusion in the October issue of the journal Labour Economics.

In “Sexism, Household Decisions, and the Gender Wage Gap,” Owen and Wei said that “hostile sexism invokes explicitly negative beliefs about women and can be difficult to capture in survey data due to individuals’ reluctance to reveal their true beliefs.”

Andrew Wei ’20
Andrew Wei ’20   Photo: Nancy L. Ford

Using data from Google Trends, they looked at the relationship between hostile sexism and the gender wage gap in the U.S. They noted that using this Google data provided a better measure of the relationship than did previously-used data sets, due to the way in which the Google data was collected and its larger sample size that allowed them to identify sexism at a more local level.

Among results of their analysis, the authors found that there is “considerable variation in online expression of sexism across the United States,” which they say is influenced by demographic characteristics.

Noting that “economic outcomes for men are some of the best predictors of sexism,” Owen and Wei said that “areas with fewer college-educated men, a lower male labor force participation rate, and a smaller share of the male population employed all have higher levels of sexism.” Furthermore, after controlling for education, occupation, industry, and age, they found that “more sexist areas have larger gender wage gaps.”

After using publicly available data from Google Trends for this study, Owen and Wei think that Google data could be useful for additional research exploring how “cultural attributes of an area can affect economic outcomes.”

Wei is currently a Federal Reserve Board of Governors economist.

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