Support Is Not Enough: The Role of Meritocracy and Sexism in Equal Pay
Gomez Vidal, Analia
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Since 2015, Argentina has witnessed an unprecedented increase in women’s mobilization around gender issues such as violence against women and reproductive rights. In this context, presidential support for equal pay policy was not enough to bring the issue upfront. This project addresses the determinants of support for equal pay. While support for this policy is high at first, meritocracy and sexism play a key role in our understanding of what is fair and who is deserving in the labor market. I argue that the labor market structure relies on gender biases that make it a misogynistic environment, even if participants do not individually align with sexist views. In such an environment, meritocratic views as aspirational can increase support for equal pay, but this effect is conditional on sexism. Alternatively, meritocracy serves as a hierarchy-legitimizing ideology, which in combination with modern sexism, reduces support for corrective policies like equal pay. Contrary to theoretical expectations, and popular agreement among respondents, stripping equal pay policy from its gender perspective does not increase support for this initiative. Instead, it reduces it. I present evidence for this theoretical framework using two original online studies administered in Argentina in 2018 and 2019. These studies are the first ones to combine micro-level data on labor market participation and political preferences with survey experiments. Overall, this dissertation represents an empirical and theoretical first step in unpacking attitudes about merit and gender equality and understanding the challenges in promoting gendered economic issues and garnering support around them in the public arena.