NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Knowing When to Ask: The Cost of Leaning In

Christine L. Exley, Muriel Niederle, Lise Vesterlund

NBER Working Paper No. 22961
Issued in December 2016
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

Gender differences in the propensity to negotiate are often used to explain the gender wage gap, popularizing the push for women to “lean-in.” We use a laboratory experiment to examine the effect of leaning-in. Despite men and women achieving similar and positive returns when they must negotiate, we find that women avoid negotiations more often than men. While this suggests that women would benefit from leaning-in, a direct test of the counterfactual proves otherwise. Women appear to positively select into negotiations and to know when to ask. By contrast, we find no significant evidence of a positive selection for men.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22961

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