April 11, 2008

Expert to discuss earnings gap among men, women

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The disparity in earning power between men and women is not a new concept to labor economics expert Solomon W. Polachek. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on the subject – in 1973.

Polachek brings the expertise gained from a long and distinguished career in economics to Southern Illinois University Carbondale for a free lecture set for 6 p.m. on Monday, April 14, in the Student Center Auditorium.

The lecture is the Sixth Annual Vandeveer Chair Lecture, an event sponsored as part of the endowed Vandeveer Chair in the Department of Economics, held by Professor Sajal Lahiri. The annual lecture is the high point of the Vandeveer Speaker Series, held in the spring semester. Lahiri said the series lectures are of most interest to economics faculty and graduate students and generally are quite technical. The Vandeveer Chair lecture, though, has a different mission.

"The annual lecture is by a very distinguished researcher who can speak to a much broader audience of non-economists," he said. In this case, disparity in earnings between men and women is a regular headline maker. Lahiri said Polachek will address such questions as why men tend to out-earn women not just in the United States but in every country for which there are data, what marital status and children may contribute to the wage gap, and whether the gap is closing.

Polachek is a Distinguished Professor at the State University of New York at Binghampton, where he holds appointments in both the economics and political science departments. He is editor of "Research in Labor Economics" and serves on several other editorial boards as well.

His expert opinion on the subject of earning differences across demographics – specifically between men and women – was sought as early as 1976 by the United States Department of Labor. He also testified to the United States Civil Rights Commission during hearings on comparable worth.

His recent research, forthcoming in publications including the "American Economics Review," focuses on such topics as how hurricanes and other disasters affect local labor markets and on whether type of health insurance affects the quality of given health care.

Alan Vaux, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts, will chair the event. Polachek's visit is made possible with support from the Department of Economics and the College of Liberal Arts at SIUC.