Salary Comparison within Marriages and its Effect on the Salary Negotiations of R&D Workers

Agnes Guenther, Andreas Distel, Wolfgang Sofka

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


R&D workers are of strategic importance for firms because they accumulate tacit knowledge about their employers’ technologies. They have substantial bargaining power about their wages because this knowledge would be attractive for competitors but hard to replace by their existing employers. While these conditions are well understood, we know comparatively little about when R&D workers are motivated to negotiate aggressively for higher wages. We draw on theoretical mechanisms from social comparisons within marriages in social psychology and reason that R&D workers who earn less than their spouses will negotiate higher wage increases. Further, we propose that social norms make this effect stronger for male R&D workers who are traditionally considered as the breadwinners in households as well as for R&D workers who have a relatively higher-ranked job than their spouses which makes them sensitive to seeing their status threatened. We test and support these hypotheses for 70,312 married R&D workers in 3,710 unique firms in Denmark between 2008 and 2016.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2023
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - 2023
EventDRUID23 Conference - NOVA School of Business and Economics, Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 10 Jun 202312 Jun 2023
Conference number: 44


ConferenceDRUID23 Conference
LocationNOVA School of Business and Economics
Internet address


  • R&D workers
  • Salary negotiations
  • Dual careers
  • Social comparison
  • Social norms
  • Social status

Cite this