As tough economic times have made working more than 50 hours a week more commonplace, a study by Indiana University (IU) researchers discovered that overworking benefits men more than women.

In analyzing data from the U.S Census Bureau, researchers found that the trend of overworking is partially responsible for inequity in pay between men and women and a primary reason the gender gap has been slower to close during the past decade.

Women are currently earning about 81 percent of what men earn. Because men overwork more frequently, they have been able to benefit more from this trend than have women, sociologist Youngjoo Cha told IU.

“Gender gaps in overwork, when coupled with rising returns to overwork, exacerbate the gender gap in wages,” Cha said. “New ways of organizing work are reproducing old forms of inequality.”

Also, researchers said, although certain jobs come with lucrative paychecks, the long hours associated with these jobs are actually perpetuating this gender gap. “Women, even when employed full time, typically have more family obligations than men,” said Cha. “This limits their availability for the ‘greedy occupations’ that require long work hours, such as high-level managers, lawyers and doctors. In these occupations, workers are often evaluated based on their face time.”

Other findings from the study:

  • In 1979, 15 percent of men and 3 percent of women worked 50 hours or more per week. These percentages peaked in the late 1990s at 19 percent of men and 7 percent of women. The percentage for men decreased slightly during the 2000s, possibly due to the effects of the recession on occupations overrepresented by men, and has remained stagnant for women.
  • The real wages of men who worked 50 hours or more per week increased 54 percent between 1979 and 2009. The wages of women who worked the same hours increased, too, by 94 percent. The wages of standard full-time workers (35 or more hours, but less than 50 hours) increased 13 percent for men and 46 percent for women between the same years.
  • The rising price of overwork slowed the decrease in the gender wage gap by 9.2 percent between 1979 and 2007. The effect is large enough to offset the gains achieved by narrowing the education gap.
  • The increase in overwork was most prominent in professional and managerial occupations, as was the increase in wages paid to overworkers. In these occupations, the rising price of overwork had the greatest impact on the gender gap in wages — in managerial occupations, for example, the gender gap in wages would be 34 percent smaller if prices for overwork had remained constant.
  • Overwork compensation can be compared to standard full-time wages by breaking them down into an hourly wage. In 1979, men who overworked earned 14 percent less than men who worked fulltime once their pay was spread over the longer hours, and women saw a 19 percent penalty. Pay for overwork has increased so rapidly over the years that now men and women both earn a six percent premium in this hourly wage comparison.

In a related story, North Carolina State University researchers found that social networking to get ahead in the job field is a tactic that only benefits men.