Gender earnings differences in china: Base pay, performance pay, and total pay

Lin Xiu, Morley Gunderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


We utilize a data set that has not been used in literature-the Life Histories and Social Change in Contemporary China (LHSCCC)-to provide new evidence on male-female pay differences in China. The data set not only enables us to control for a wide range of pay-determining characteristics but also is the first to enable an analysis of the different components of pay (e.g., base pay and performance pay) as well as for total pay. We find: (1) Women receive about three-quarters of male pay for each of the dimensions of base pay, performance pay, and total pay, before adjusting for the effect of different pay-determining factors; (2) Approximately two-thirds of the gap reflect the fact that females tend to be paid less than males for the same wage-determining characteristics (often labeled as discrimination), while about one-third reflects the fact that males have endowments or characteristics that tend to be associated with higher pay, especially supervisory responsibilities, general labor market experience, occupational skills, education, and membership in the Communist party; (3) Marriage has a large positive effect on the earnings of women in China (and none for men), but childcare responsibilities for children under the age of 6 have a large negative effect on the earnings of women although these are offset almost completely if an elder family member is present, highlighting that childcare responsibilities disproportionately fall on women unless an elder family member is present; (4) Pay premiums for higher level skills and higher supervisory ranks are remarkably small for both males and especially females; (5) With respect to the unexplained or "discriminatory" portion of the gap, females get a huge pay penalty for simply being female, but a substantial portion of this gets offset by the higher pay premium they receive for such factors as Han ethnicity, being married, and education. This suggests that discrimination tends to occur in the form of a pay penalty for simply being female and not from lower returns to the same endowments of pay-determining characteristics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-254
Number of pages20
JournalContemporary Economic Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful for the support given by Jiangsu Project Plan for Outstanding Talents in Six Research Fields and QingLan Project Plan for Young Academic Leaders at Universities in Jiangsu Province. This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (51376088, 21436006); Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (11KJA620001, 10KJB620001).


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