Study Shows ‘Profound’ Negative Impact Of Religion On Gender Pay Gap

No matter how much Republicans and Fox News say otherwise, there is an unmistakable pay gap between men and women in America. There are a few legitimate reasons (childbirth/child rearing) but a lot more illegitimate ones (women aren’t as hard working/they’re too emotional/not as smart). But another, more fundamental, reason has been identified by two researchers:

According to Travis Wiseman, director of the International Business program at Mississippi State University, and Nabamita Dutta of the University of Wisconsin, researchers have largely ignored the cultural factors that shape gender roles in the workplace. As the two researchers note in a recent working paper, there has been little attention given to one cultural factor in particular: religiosity.

Yes, it’s our old friend religion that’s contributed to racism, anti-LGBT bigotry and bucket-loads of misogyny. Now it’s helping suppress economic opportunities for women. It seems like this would be obvious but apparently it wasn’t:

To test that variable, Wiseman and Dutta looked at how two different measurements of religiosity among residents of different states — belief in God and participation in religious activity — correlated with the gender wage-gap in those states. Even after controlling for age, education, marital status, occupation, time in the workforce, and other factors, they found that this correlation was rather significant: specifically, that a three percent increase in a state’s religiosity related to a one percent increase in its gender wage-gap.

So what’s happening here? The study doesn’t draw any conclusions beyond the correlation but it’s not hard to guess.

In the view of most of the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), women are not meant to work outside of the home, much less be the primary earner. This definitely applies to conservative religion but it’s not exclusively relegated to the right. Even if left leaning employers don’t realize it, they’ve been conditioned, to a degree, to view women as the caregiver in a family:

Traditional religious attitudes might also affect employer behavior, shaping managers’ decisions about whom to hire or lay off, or a family’s decision about who should be the primary breadwinner. Zooming out, the state government’s distribution of resources — like education, health care, and parental leave — can also be shaped by prevailing cultural norms that are shaped by religious attitudes.

“Cultural norms” is the key phrase there. Until we break the social model that men are the natural breadwinners and women are the natural diaper changers, it’s going to be nigh-impossible to get people to stop discriminating against women (even unconsciously) in the workplace.


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