Social Scientists should comment on EEOC pay data collection plan

by Donald Tomaskovic-Devey

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has opened with the Federal Register a second and final 20 day comment period on the expansion of private sector employer data collection to include pay data. These pay data will make it possible for social scientists, the EEOC and other regulators to observe workplace specific gender and racial pay gaps.

Please go to the Federal Register and submit your recommendations.

In the first comment period social scientists were almost entirely absent. The business community, however, were quite active arguing that these data were not needed, overly burdensome, or with little value. In fact, there are no alternative general population workplace level sources of data on earnings inequalities for the U.S., the burden is light because most employers have digitized personnel systems already capable of producing these data, and the value to the regulatory and scientific community are immense.

I am asking all social scientists who understand the importance of identifying the organizational sources of pay inequalities to weigh in during this second and last comment period. You can read the proposed data collection, previous comments and weigh in with your expert opinion here:


In 1961 the US Congress past the equal pay act, prohibiting unequal pay for equal work in the same workplace. No data general population data have ever been available to evaluate the degree to which this form of pay inequality is a problem.

In 1964 the Congress of the United States passed the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination and segregation in employment. That Act established the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and authorized it to collect data on progress toward equal opportunity in U.S. private sector workplaces. Since 1966 the EEOC has been collecting workplace data on the race by sex by occupation employment in private sector workplaces with more than 100 employees. These data have been invaluable for social science research on EEO progress since 1964 (e.g. Stainback and Tomaskovic-Devey 2012), what HR practices work and do not (Kalev, Dobbin and Kelly 2006), the efficacy of affirmative action (Kurtulus 2016; Leonard 1984), and the impact of lawsuits on employment practices (Skaggs 2009; Hirsh 2009).

In 2014 President Obama instructed the EEOC to collect pay data from these same private sector firms in order to combat the gender pay gap. There are no other workplace level data on gender or race pay gaps in the United States. Such data will be invaluable for both social scientists and for enforcement of the Civil Rights Act mandate to outlaw discrimination and segregation in U.S. employment. These new data will allow us to examine the role of workplace and job segregation in producing pay gaps as well as revisiting the 1961 Equal Pay Act to identify the circumstances under which we find within occupation workplace pay gaps.

In the first comment period there were very few comments by social scientists.

Expert opinions matter here and the EEOC and Obama administration need the input of the informed scientific community to comment on these proposals.

Proposed Action:

Please take a few moments to think about the utility of workplace pay data for scientific and policy agendas around race and gender inequality. Then go to the Federal Register and provide your input:


Hirsch, C. Elizabeth. 2009. “The Strength of Weak Enforcement: The Impact of Discrimination Charges, Legal Environments, and Organizational Conditions on Workplace Segregation.” American Sociological Review 74: 245-271.

Kalev, Alexandra, Frank Dobbin and Erin Kelly. 2006. “Best Practices or Best Guesses? Assessing the Efficacy of Corporate Affirmative Action and Diversity Policies.” American Sociological Review 71: 589-617.

Kurtulus, Fidan Ana. 2016. “The Impact of Affirmative Action on the Employment of Minorities and Women: A Longitudinal Analysis Using Three Decades of EEO‐1 Filings.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 35.1: 34-66.

Leonard, Jonathan S. 1984. “Employment and Occupational Advance under Affirmative Action.” Review of Economics and Statistics 66: 377-385.

Skaggs, Sheryl. 2009. “Legal-Political Pressures and African American Access to Managerial Jobs.” American Sociological Review 74 (2): 225-244.

Stainback, Kevin and Donald Tomaskovic-Devey. 2012. Documenting Desegregation: Racial and Gender Segregation in Private-Sector Employment Since the Civil Rights Act. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.




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