Frank, S. A. and McKenzie, R. B. 2006. The male-female pay gap driven by coupling between labor markets and mating markets. Journal of Bioeconomics 8:269-274.
Males often get paid more than females for the same work. This male-female pay gap has been observed throughout the world over many years. The most commonly cited explanations focus on gender oppression and workplace discrimination. We agree that discrimination contributes significantly to the pay gap; however, other factors may play important roles in how the sexes compete in the labor market. We use observations from psychology and concepts from biology to show how aspects of mate choice may influence labor markets. With a mathematical model, we analyze how mating preferences for partner wages affect the differences in wages between males and females, and in turn how wage differences affect mating preferences. If some extrinsic force, such as discrimination, creates an initial bias in wages, then coupled feedback between mating preferences and wages creates and maintains excess mating preference and wage biases. This model demonstrates how coupling between labor markets and mating markets can lead to outcomes that do not occur when analyzing either market in isolation from the other.