The Central role of the ask gap in gender pay inequality

Nina Roussille (University of California - Berkeley)

January 14, 2021, 15:30–17:00


Room zoom

Job Market Seminar


The gender ask gap measures the extent to which women ask for lower salaries than comparable men. This paper studies the role of the ask gap in generating wage inequality, using novel data from, an online recruitment platform for full-time engineering jobs in the United States. To use the platform, job candidates must post an ask salary, stating how much they want to make in their next job. Firms then apply to candidates by offering them a bid salary, solely based on the candidate's resume and ask salary. If the candidate is hired, a final salary is recorded. After adjusting for resume characteristics, the ask gap is 3.3%, the gap in bid salaries is 2.4%, and the gap in final offers is 1.8%. Remarkably, further controlling for the ask salary explains the entirety of the residual gender gaps in bid and final salaries. To estimate the market-level effects of an increase in women's ask salaries, I exploit an unanticipated change in how candidates were prompted to provide their ask. For some candidates in mid-2018, the answer box used to solicit the ask salary was changed from an empty field to an entry pre-filled with the median bid salary for similar candidates. Using an interrupted time series design, I find that this change drove the ask gap and the bid gap to zero. In addition, women did not receive fewer bids than men did due to the change, suggesting they faced little penalty for demanding wages comparable to men.