Adventures in Gender #2

Many of this series of posts, like the first post in the series, will likely be addressing explanations of the Wage Gap, as this difference between the genders has received the most attention in the news.  Most recently on this front, Quartz’s Oliver Staley reports:

Why male Uber drivers earn more than women

The study showed that women learn at the same rate as men, but because men are less likely to have childrearing responsibilities, they’re more likely to have the time to accumulate the experience required to earn more. There are far more men with two years of Uber experience than there are women.

That experience also means men tend to drive in a better locations. Looking specifically at data from two months in Chicago, women drove slightly longer distances (0.5 miles, vs. 0.49 miles for men) between accepting a fare and picking up passengers—time which they’re not paid for—and had shorter trips with passengers (4.88 miles, vs. 5.04 miles for men), time for which they are paid. Men also see more benefit from driving during surges, and earned $10.14 per trip, compared to $9.84 for women.

So here we have a clear difference in life choices affecting income levels, which is often dismissed out of hand by those touting practically useless numbers like “average earnings”. However, one might respond that these life choices are due to systemic inequities, and this is a much more nuanced argument that requires much more space than a blog post and in some respects gets out of the realm of data. However, all of that aside, these several differences did not account for the greatest amount of the variance in pay:

But the biggest contributor to the Uber gender gap, accounting for almost half the difference, is the higher average speed for male drivers. Uber’s formula for paying drivers rewards fast driving, up to a point (accidents and speeding tickets weight against driving too fast). Men in Chicago, the study found, drove 19.5 mph, compared to 18.8 mph for women.

As the authors understand it, men aren’t driving faster to be more productive Uber drivers, but because men are less risk averse when driving; their preference for going fast happens to pay off when they drive for Uber. As they gain experience, both men and women actually slow down, probably because they learn to frequent busier, and more congested, parts of the city to get fares.

The same reason men are supposedly less safe drivers than women also explains increased pay as on-demand drivers, after accounting for the potential unsafe performance and increases in experience. Is this too due to systemic inequity? I’m sure someone, somewhere, would argue yes, and the buggy whip makers would agree with them.

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