Friday, December 10, 2010

Washing Windows Hanging Off a Rope; I Hope They Are Paid More Than Those Washing The Other Side

Here's one example of why men might earn more on average than women: they tend to far outnumber women in jobs that are very dangerous, and therefore highly-paid: coal mining, working on oil rigs, fishing, farming, logging, excavation, construction and window-washing, etc.  I took the picture above of two window-washers hanging off the AEI building today on ropes, with no obvious safety equipment other than the normal-size ropes attached to something on the top of the building (notice the ropes aren't even visible in the picture!), with no buckets, trays or harnesses to support them, and nothing below them except the sidewalk to stop a fall.  I'm pretty sure these guys make a higher wage than the maintenance workers who clean the same exact windows from the inside of the building.   

Of course, there's nothing that would prevent women from becoming outside window-washers, but there might be natural gender differences in preferences for work environments that would discourage most women from hanging off a rope 10 stories above the street. Perhaps men show greater tolerance than women for risky, physically demanding, dangerous work in extreme outdoor conditions, and women put a higher priority on office work environments that are low-risk, indoors, safe and pleasant.  Higher (lower) risk = higher (lower) wages, ceteris paribus, and women on average may be perfectly willing to accept lower wages for lower risk jobs, which would contribute to the wage gap.  

Here's BLS data showing that in 2009, 93% of all workplace fatalities were men, and here's data showing that 90% of all fatal motorcycle accidents in 2009 were men, so I don't think there's any question that men are significantly more risk-tolerant than women.  Any empirical study of wage differences by gender should control for risk and the probability of work-related injury or fatality, which I don't think usually happens. 

9 Comments:

At 12/10/2010 10:30 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

Or, this might be a Contra indicator to your other data on men's achievement on SAT scores. If men will take such risks they might be stupid.

Maybe even the differences in test scores can be explained this way. Faced with uncertainty a male will take a risk and move to the next question. A female may falter and dither over the risk and therefore answer fewer questions. This could explain both the higher number of high scores and the higher deviation.

 
At 12/10/2010 11:21 PM, Blogger W.E. Heasley said...

Was an underground coal miner going through college 1975-1979. Paid $76-$79 per day over that time period (1970’s dollars).

 
At 12/11/2010 1:33 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"If men will take such risks they might be stupid"...

Then again they might be 'thrill junkies' who also happen to know where the paychecks are greener...:-)

 
At 12/12/2010 1:04 PM, OpenID American Delight said...

I would have walked by those window washers without a second thought about the larger job market and gender differences.

That's why I like your brain, Mark.

 
At 12/12/2010 1:50 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

At the Pentagon they rent a manlift for around $350 a day. I wonder how long it would take to replace the windows with tilt-in sash.

 
At 12/12/2010 1:52 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

They use high quality climbing ropes. The risk of failure is small.

 
At 12/13/2010 9:35 AM, Blogger Hydra said...

Then again they might be 'thrill junkies' who also happen to know where the paychecks are greener

=================================

They use this system on my building, and I notice the climbers all seem to be Latinos.

Taking all those jobs Americans don't want, I suppose.

 
At 12/13/2010 10:59 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"They use this system on my building, and I notice the climbers all seem to be Latinos"...

Hmmm, interesting hydra...

Locally here in the St. Louis city/county area there is a family from Kentucky with window washing contracts for several many high rise buildings...

When talking to them I found out that two of the older brothers (now in their late forties) used to do circus acts for Ringling...

Transferable skill sets?

 
At 12/14/2010 6:57 PM, Blogger Billy said...

I'm pretty sure the people sitting behind desks on the other side of the window make more money.

 

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