Multiple disadvantage and wage growth: the effect of merit pay on pay gaps

Carol Woodhams, Ben Lupton, Graham Perkins, Marc Cowling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article concerns rates of wage growth among women and minority groups and their impact on pay gaps. Specifically, it focuses on the pay progression of people with more than one disadvantaged identity, and on the impact of merit pay. Recent research indicates that pay gaps for people in more than one disadvantaged identity category are wider than those with a single-disadvan- taged identity. It is not known whether these gaps are closing, at what rate, and whether all groups are affected equally; nor is it known whether merit pay allevi- ates or exacerbates existing pay gaps. In addressing these issues, the analysis draws on longitudinal payroll data from a large UK-based organization. Results show that pay gaps are closing; however, the rate of convergence is slow rela- tive to the size of existing pay disparities, and slowest of all for people with disabilities. When the effect of merit pay is isolated, it is found to have a small positive effect in reducing pay gaps, and this effect is generally larger for dual/ multiple-disadvantaged groups. These findings run counter to the well-estab- lished critique of merit pay in relation to equality outcomes.The implications of this are discussed, and an agenda for research and practice is set out. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-301
Number of pages19
JournalHuman Resource Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2015


  • research methods and design—quantitative research methodology
  • research methods and design—multivariate regression
  • pay for performance
  • gender diversity
  • diversity


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