The Gender Wage Gap In The Arts New social science research shows that women in the arts earn significantly less than men across the board.

The Gender Wage Gap In The Arts

The Gender Wage Gap In The Arts

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New social science research shows that women in the arts earn significantly less than men across the board.

New research shows women are consistently earning less than men in the arts. Gustav Dejert/Getty Images/Ikon Images hide caption

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Gustav Dejert/Getty Images/Ikon Images

New research shows women are consistently earning less than men in the arts.

Gustav Dejert/Getty Images/Ikon Images


We heard a lot during the presidential campaign about the wage gap, the fact that women often earn less than men for the same kinds of work. Hillary Clinton pushed that issue, and she lost. But it remains a reality in many people's lives.

And we have new information about the wage gap in a field where many people might imagine that they favor gender equality. NPR's social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam is here. Hi, Shankar.


INSKEEP: What's the field?

VEDANTAM: We're talking about the arts, Steve, everything from photography to fine arts, musicians, choreographers. There's been a lot of work in the social sciences exploring the gender wage gap in other fields, but not much attention to the arts. I was speaking with Danielle Lindemann - she's a sociologist at Lehigh University - along with her co-authors Carly Rush and Steven Tepper. They've analyzed wage disparities in the arts.

Now, one challenge in studying artists is how you define who an artist is.


VEDANTAM: For the purpose of the study, the researchers used a simple metric. It's not perfect, but it's one way to look at those in the arts. The researchers examined the income of more than 30,000 people who'd received an arts degree.

INSKEEP: And we're talking here about people who, not universally, but commonly lean a little bit more to the left or push issues of equality. So you can assume that they believe in equality. So what's actually happening?

VEDANTAM: That's exactly right. Lindemann told me that many people might think the arts are going to have fewer gender biases because they tend to attract people who believe in the ideal of gender equality. But that's not what the data showed.

DANIELLE LINDEMANN: We did find evidence of this gender wage gap in the arts. We did find that women earn significantly less than men, even controlling for various factors like the amount of time they worked, which sector - was it non-profit or profit - the field in which they work. Women are consistently earning less than men in the arts.

VEDANTAM: There's one interesting difference between the gender wage gap in the arts compared to many other fields, Steve. Many other fields see what's called a motherhood penalty.

LINDEMANN: We didn't see evidence of the so-called motherhood penalty that we find in other fields - so the fact that women who become mothers, their wages actually decrease relative to women who are not mothers. But in the arts, we didn't really see that. We don't find substantive, significant evidence of this motherhood penalty among female artists.

INSKEEP: OK, so it's not just that women might go out of the workforce for a while and come back and suffer some kind of a setback for that reason. And yet there is this gap in the arts. What's happening?

VEDANTAM: Well, there are lots of factors in both the arts and other fields that potentially explain those gaps, Steve. The specific area of work you do matters a great deal.

So in this case, people working in the non-profit sector tend to earn less than people working in the for-profit sector. Artists working in design tend to make more than those working at the performing arts. Artists in new media tend to do better.

But even after you control for all these factors, after you control for education and experience, the amount of time you've spent working in the field, the researchers still find a wage gap of more than $13,000 between men and women.

INSKEEP: Well, what are the implications that even in this field where people often speak out in favor of gender equality, you have this pay gap?

VEDANTAM: Well, you and I have talked many times, Steve, about how people's intentions don't always line up with their actions. You may want to do one thing, but you might end up doing something different. It's also the case that there might be structural factors, institutional factors that cause these disparities. And unless you address those, your best intentions aren't going to fix the problem.

INSKEEP: Unconsciously, we may be doing something differently than we are consciously.

VEDANTAM: Precisely.

INSKEEP: Shankar, thanks very much.

VEDANTAM: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Shankar Vedantam, our social science correspondent and host of the podcast Hidden Brain.


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