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Women Working “Nine to Five” and Intimate Partner Violence

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Nicholas Mastron
June 25, 2018

“Why go back there? I’d just cut my losses and get out. What about crashing with your friend, the one back home? Or even us? You know he’s just going to blow up again. He’ll never let you have a career or even thrive.”

“It’d cost too much for me to move. It’s not just the rent; it’s movers, security deposits, amenity fees… I just can’t leave. You guys are sweet, but then I have to get to work and it’ll close to double my commute and costs. I’ll keep earning the money to maybe kick him out of my life. Besides, he doesn’t really hit me, not much, and he’ll always make breakfast for us later as a ‘I’m sorry’ gesture. It’s not genuine but whatever… it’s better than a shelter and keeps my dignity.” [Phone call drops.]

Sadly, this traumatic conversation happens to women around the world every day. Women’s decreased economic capacities not only restrict their purchasing power but also endanger their physical safety by making it more difficult to leave abusive partners.

So, why do women have less economic power? Because society views pay and wealth issues as egalitarian issues with “sticky” economic periods. idiosyncrasies.

This “stickiness” is not egalitarian but elitist. Traditional econometric pay parity analyses embrace this elitism through statistically hiding value-added productivity and information asymmetry. Recent research shows that these hidden social constructs often facilitate intimate partner violence in the United States.

Uncovering the Value-Added Argument

Women earn significantly less than men, accumulate less overall wealth, suffer routine workplace harassment and experience lower promotional opportunities than male counterparts. Some scholars defend these outcomes by arguing that since pay discrepancies have shrunk significantly over time, especially after accounting for other econometric variables––age, tenure and number of dependents––workplace sex discrimination has been largely eliminated.

While typical pay parity research acknowledges these variables, it nonetheless permits other discrimination, chiefly maternity discrimination. Maternity discrimination includes policies and environments targeting either pregnant women or working mothers. Worse still, all women, whether intending to have children or not, are vulnerable to maternity discrimination simply by carrying the potential for motherhood. This evidence can be seen most clearly in career advancement disparities.

An “a-ha” moment strikes with the strong correlations between women’s age, tenure and associated number of dependents. Therefore, equations including these variables potentially invalidate classic econometric regression conditions by having spatial correlations that lower pay disparities. Here, traditional sex discrimination simply transforms into motherhood discrimination, which is merely a human capital function of sex.

So, including these variables actually conservatively shifts the meaning of gender pay parity research to mean really gender economic value-added research. Economic value-added approaches endorse a restrictive view of value to what is left after capital costs are deducted from profits. This approach ignores the more holistic benefits through human capital, corporate responsibility and innovation, as well as incentivizes workers’ internal competition for performance-related benefits

Inflecting the Information Asymmetry Argument

However, when more or less information is held by one or more competing parties, preventing fair and optimal outcomes, information asymmetry is at play. Gender pay parity enters the information asymmetry discussion when employers are allowed to prohibit employees disclosing their wages, salaries and benefits to other workers.

Known as pay secrecy, employees cannot easily coordinate to increase wages to similar levels. Historically, male workers benefit more economically from these policies. Therefore, even if men and women hold the same positions, women do not necessarily hold the same occupational title, meaning and power due to having different abilities to leverage their position.

Yet, most pay parity equations include occupation as another necessary variable. It is usually defined as the same literal job position. However, information asymmetry disrupts this variable’s operationalization and invalidates another classic assumption. If parity equations’ occupation variables are merely “same position held between men and women,” then occupation relates systematically to the error term by ignoring the expected social norms and de facto discrimination women face occupationally.

Hence, the occupation variable assumes, to some extent, that a gap should exist here based on a given society’s social standards. Incorporating the “gap-friendly” variable into a gap equation threatens the equation’s statistical conclusion validity.

Revisiting the Economic Capacity-Intimate Partner Violence Relationship

Now, how do these econometric inequalities relate to intimate partner violence? Seems a fair question. Essentially, decreased fiscal and career capacities adversely impact relative household bargaining, which can then lead to coercion and violence.

Household bargaining models show how individuals in a relationship interact when making economic decisions. Economic inequities incentivize the economically advantaged partner––usually the male––to act in his own best interest. This partner then engages in individual strategizing, rather than as a unit, leading to a noncooperative bargaining model.

As seen in abusive relationships, noncooperative bargaining models often illustrate how coercive tactics, such as unauthorized debt access, employment interference and intentionally disruptive emotional abuse, reinforce power dynamics.


While prior gender pay parity research did much to capture women’s situations, the next generation of scholars must rely less on using traditional demographics as proxies and derive more holistic workforce data to promote a more egalitarian society.

Author: Nicholas Mastron is a current doctoral student in Public Policy & Administration at the George Washington University, with a field specialization in Social & Gender Policy. His email address is [email protected]. Follow him @NicholasMastron. The views expressed in this article solely reflect the author’s opinions and not those of any employer, university, or professional association that which he may associate.

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