The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Explanations for Gender Pay Gaps Across Federal Government Science Agencies

UMass Amherst Sociology

While government employment is commonly believed to be controlled by neutral, formal pay structures, new research from a team of researchers led by University of Massachusetts Amherst sociologist Laurel Smith-Doerr has found that in a number of science-based federal agencies, gaps and differential implementation in current standardization schemes create gendered outcomes. The research indicates that the resulting pay gaps between men and women at these agencies can also be associated with the cultural gender frames of the agencies’ field of research.

The researchers analyzed federal employment data from 1994-2008 at the organizational level, focusing on seven U.S. science agencies that span physical, biological and engineering disciplines, as well as interdisciplinary research: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Energy (DOE). They received de-identified data from the Office of Personnel Management in 2012 as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request and to their knowledge have been the only recipients of the population level data.

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October 23, 2019