Just this April New York City joined Philadelphia, Pa., and the state of Massachusetts in banning employers from asking job applicants about previous salaries.
The new policies are intended to reduce the gender pay gap, but a new study from PayScale, a salary database and software company, says that women may be damned if they do and damned if they don’t when it comes to disclosing past compensation.
Based on a survey of more than 15,000 people, the study found that women who declined to disclose their salary histories were offered 1.8% less than women who were asked to share their salary histories and did.
This relationship was reversed for men refused to disclose past salaries. In fact, male job applicants who were asked to disclose salary histories and did were offered about 1.2% less than male applicants who declined to share that information.
The results of the study challenge the reasoning behind laws like those recently passed in New York City. Policymakers have argued that when employers ask about compensation history, it enables them to anchor their offers to previous salaries, which in the case of women and people of color are often lower than that of their peers. This could then allow discrimination in employment and the gender pay gap to persist.
Washington, D.C., and at least 21 other states have proposed similar legislation restricting questions about salary history over the last year, according to the Associated Press.
But PayScale’s Lydia Frank said that the study’s results may suggest these new policies will not have their intended effect as people seem to respond negatively to women negotiating for higher pay. Additionally, in the absence of information about salary history, potential employers may assume women’s past salaries were lower than they actually were, causing them to offer less.