Link of the day: The gender pay gap in an anonymous online labor market
The gender pay gap is a subject that is both important and notoriously difficult to study. It is very hard to disentangle different effects as self-selection, societal expectations, market forces and discrimination all play a role. This piece I found very interesting because it looked at a market where active discrimination should be impossible since ’employers’ cannot know the gender of their ’employees’. Amazon Mechanical Turk is a platform where people can solve small tasks for small amounts of money that are not necessarily hard, but require human intelligence. In the past, many of these tasks involved for example classifying images to gather training data sets for machine learning algorithm. The name ‘Mechanical Turk’ comes from the ‘Turk’, a chess automaton that famously beat Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin in chess. It was later revealed that the automaton was not actually a machine, but a chess master sitting inside the ‘Turk’. Likewise, Amazon Mechanical Turk provides human generated artificial intelligence. Tasks on the platform have varying difficulties and payouts. People can voluntarily select tasks whenever and however they like and get payed if they solve the task successfully. The interesting thing about the paper is now that the authors found a significant gender pay gap even though any direct discrimination by the ’employer’ is impossible. Solely targeting employers and companies doesn’t seem to be all that’s needed to shrink the gender pay gap on a societal level.