Gender Differences in Job Search and the Earnings Gap: Evidence from the Field and Lab

Patricia Cortés, Jessica Pan, Laura Pilossoph, Ernesto Reuben, Basit Zafar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article investigates gender differences in the job search process in the field and lab. Our analysis is based on rich information on initial job offers and acceptances from undergraduates of Boston University's Questrom School of Business. We find (i) a clear gender difference in the timing of job offer acceptance, with women accepting jobs substantially earlier than men, and (ii) a sizable gender earnings gap in accepted offers, which narrows in favor of women over the course of the job search period. To understand these patterns, we develop a job search model that incorporates gender differences in risk aversion and overoptimism about prospective offers. We validate the model's assumptions and predictions using the survey data and present empirical evidence that the job search patterns in the field can be partly explained by the greater risk aversion displayed by women and the higher levels of overoptimism displayed by men. We replicate these findings in a laboratory experiment that features sequential job search and provide direct evidence on the purported mechanisms. Our findings highlight the importance of risk preferences and beliefs for gender differences in job-finding behavior and, consequently, early-career wage gaps among the highly educated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2069-2126
Number of pages58
JournalQuarterly Journal of Economics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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