How much is sexual harassment worth to you? Like, say, you’re hanging out in the lunchroom and some fellow worker invites you to the party in his or her pants (to which you do not want to go). $4.00 a day if you’re a woman and $8.00 a day if you’re a man? Does that sound about right?

Those are supposedly the going rates, according to recent research that was reported on in the Toronto Star and the Washington Post, among others.

In a study titled Compensating Differentials for Sexual Harassment, Vanderbilt University economist Joni Hersch found that jobs in which employees face a higher risk of sexual harassment receive a higher pay than people in jobs where the risk is low.

That higher pay, says Hersch, is an average of $.25 an hour for women and $.50 an hour for men.

Using data on claims of sexual harassment filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the corresponding local Fair Employment Practices Agencies, Hersch calculated sexual harassment risks at work by industry, age group and sex. She reports that female workers are six times more likely than male workers to experience sexual harassment on the job and that men are compensated twice as much for the risk.

In analyzing workers’ wages, while controlling for several other variables, Hersch finds that firms “must pay workers more for exposure to the risk of sexual harassment.”

Variables aside, reading the entire paper (more than once), I don’t understand how the causal relationship was established. While there may be correlation, it seems questionable at best to conclude that it is because the risk of sexual harassment is higher. Hersch seems convinced. I am not. You can decide for yourself by reading the entire paper here.

The industry where women faced the highest risk of sexual harassment was mining, with a rate of 72 reports per 100,000 workers. Construction came in second with 20, then agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting with 18. The lowest was education and health services with 3.71.

Men were most likely to be sexually harassed in the information industry, with a much lower highest rate of 2.73 reports per 100,000.

Hersch reportedly found that women in the mining industry are paid $2 an hour more than they would be if the harassment risk were lower — I got this from the Washington Post, by the way, and couldn’t find the information in the paper. The tables hurt my head, so maybe it’s there — and the average wage increase was the aforementioned $.25.

In a Vanderbilt press release, Hersch says, “Sexual harassment in the workplace is so universally despised that people require some extra compensation for exposure to a sexually harassing environment.”

She adds that the only other work-related risks that receive hazard pay are for risk of injury or fatality. Like, maybe in a mine or on a construction site?

Also, is it as eyebrow raising to you as it is to me that the “statistically significant” wage differential of $.25 cents an hour (or, $4 or $8 for an eight-hour workday, $20 or $40 for a 40-hour workweek, $1040 or $2080 a year) is supposedly enough to keep women working in environments where they would potentially face harassment?

It’s an interesting theory. Would you face a potential risk of sexual harassment for $4 a day?