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Bad News: Working Longer Hours Might Help Your Salary

Working more used to hurt your salary, says a recent paper from Cornell University, but not anymore. In fact, say researchers Youngjoo Cha and Kim Weeden, the wage premium for working longer hours is growing. By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, "overworkers" earned about 6 percent more than their shorter-working counterparts.

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(Photo Credit: Chaiwat/freedigitalphotos.net)

Most interestingly, the rise in pay is hourly, say Cha and Weeden, in a recent interview with Harvard Business Review Blog Network, and appears to be consistent even when adjusted for education level and experience.

"The rising wage returns to overwork are not solely due to, say, the fact that today's overworkers are more likely to be highly educated or to work in high-skill occupations than overworkers in the past," says Cha. "...in our data, we see that the overwork wage premium is larger in the occupations where overwork is more common. This pattern is consistent with the argument that in some occupations, workers are expected to put in extremely long hours, and people who fail to meet this expectation are penalized in their relative hourly pay."

Occupations such as doctors, lawyers, and engineers -- so-called "greedy occupations" -- fit this profile. This also helps explain why women still earn less than men: in addition to the fact that they're less likely to choose "greedy occupations," they also are less likely to overwork. The result is that even women in high-earning jobs might miss out on promotions or raises, because their overworking male colleagues are able to put in more time -- and more time, in today's workplace, is required.

"Our analysis shows that if the hourly wages for overwork had stayed the same throughout the period, the overall gender wage gap would have decreased by about 10 percent more than it did," says Cha.

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