The next Economics Seminar of Paris-Saclay will take place on Thursday, October 13 from 12h15 to 13h15. Olle Folke (Uppsala University) will present The Gender Gap in Meaningful Work: Explanations and Implications (joint with Vanessa Burbano, Stephan Meier and Johanna Rickne.


An understanding of (gender) differences in non-monetary work conditions is fundamental for a complete characterization of individuals’ well-being at work, that is, to fully characterize gender inequalities in the labor market. We examine one such condition—meaningful work—using nationally representative survey data linked with worker and employer administrative data. We document a large and expanding gender gap in meaningful work, wherein women experience their jobs as more meaningful than men do. We find little support for explanations based in labor market decisions related to first parenthood or to women’s under-representation in leadership jobs. Instead, the gap appears to be largely driven by sorting of more women into jobs with a high level of beneficence—the sense of having a prosocial impact. While both women and men experience such jobs as more meaningful, women do so by a larger margin, that may result from an alignment between beneficence and the stereotypical female role. Turning to implications, we explore how much a female advantage in meaningful work compensates for the female wage disadvantage. While the gender gap in meaningful work compensates for about one-third of the gender wage gap in the lower half of the wage distribution, it is insignificant in the upper half, where the gender wage gap is most pronounced. We also uncover suggestive evidence linking men’s lower experience of meaning at work to the political trend of grievance-based mobilization for the populist radical right, pointing to political implications of gender differences in meaningful work.