Gender Wage Gap Starts Early

In studying America’s teen workforce, Sociology Professor Yasemin Besen-Cassino, a leading expert in gender pay equity, has found that the gender wage gap begins in the teen years and widens with age.

With support from the W.E. Upjohn Foundation, the 2012 Montclair State University Distinguished Scholar of the Year is also redefining assumptions about America’s teen workers – from why they work and who gets hired to what they are paid.

“Affluent teens dominate today’s youth labor force,” she says. “They work for social – not financial – reasons.” Teens who need to work for the income often miss out on these jobs because they don’t have the right look.

Gender wage gab

Yet while 12- and 13-year-old boys and girls begin work earning the same money at jobs like babysitting, yard work and snow shoveling, by age 14 and 15, the first gender wage gap emerges. Besen-Cassino has detailed the quantitative results of her study of the inequalities in the youth labor force in her book, Consuming Work: Youth Labor in America, which will be published by Temple University Press in January 2014. “It discusses how early work experiences not only create and sustain socio-economic inequalities, but also create lasting gender inequality in the workplace,” she says.

A gender equality advocate, Besen-Cassino spoke beside Lily Ledbetter to support the 2009 Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and has testified as an expert witness before the New Jersey State Legislature. The American Association of University Women recently funded and published a study she co-authored about New Jeresey’s gender wage gap.Besen-Cassino has just begun a new book project on the effects of the economic recession on the division of housework. “It’s about the economic recession’s effects on gender equality at home,” she explains, “particularly in terms of housework and childcare duties.”