Abstract: Are All Mentoring Relationships Equally Helpful? Gender Differences in the Economic Benefits of Adolescent Mentors (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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323P Are All Mentoring Relationships Equally Helpful? Gender Differences in the Economic Benefits of Adolescent Mentors

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Mina Lee, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Hyojin Cho, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Chicago
Julia Henly, PhD, Professor, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background: Mentoring relationships in adolescence can have economic payoffs into adulthood. However, theory suggests that mentoring may be a mechanism that reinforces gender disparities in earnings. The economic position of a mentor likely contributes to its influence. Because mentoring relationships show a gender homophilous tendency (Lin, 2000), and because women have lower average earnings than men (Blau & Kahn, 2017), adolescent males may have access to more economically advantageous information and influence from their mentors than their adolescent female counterparts. Empirical evidence remains limited regarding the role of gendered mentoring relationships in labor market outcomes. To fill this gap, this study examines mentor-mentee ties and hypothesizes that (1) adolescents are more likely to have a mentor of the same gender than a different gender and (2) male mentor-male mentee relationships in young adulthood will be related to greater earnings of mentees in later adulthood than other mentor-mentee gender combinations.
Methods: Three waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) were used to test the hypotheses. Annual income measured at wave4 when respondents were 24-34 years old is used to measure economic wellbeing. The main explanatory variables are (1) ever having a mentor since age of 14, (2) gender of mentor, and (3) gender of both mentor and mentee (0: male mentor-male mentee, 1: female mentor-male mentee, 2: male mentor-female mentee, and 3: female mentor-female mentee). After examining prevalence of same- vs. different-gender mentoring relationships (Hyp. 1) we regress independent variables on log-transformed income net of mentees’ demographic information, education, household factors, and full-time work status (Hyp. 2).
Results: Approximately 75% of sample ever had a mentor since age 14. 58% reported a male mentor and 42% reported a female mentor. Men (79%) were two times more likely to have male mentors than women (39%) (χ2=1232.13, p<.001).
Female workers earns less than male workers regardless of mentor gender. Both the main effect of having a mentor (β = .01, p = .67) and gender of mentor (β = .03, p = .41) are not significantly related to income in OLS models. However, and consistent with Hyp. 2, compared to the male mentor-male mentee group, the three other dyads showed significantly lower income. The mentees of male mentee-female mentor pairs earn 12% less (p < .05), the female mentee-male mentor 34% less (p < .001), and the female mentee-female mentor 31% (p < .001).
Conclusion and Implications: As hypothesized, the mentor-mentee relationships were disproportionately gender homophilous and male mentees with male mentors earned the highest income. The result suggests that the benefits of youth mentoring programs – even those that may try to counteract the tendency toward informal homophily by assigning girls male mentors – will likely not eliminate gender income disparities. Career advancement programs for girls that train for higher paying professions may be more beneficial than mentoring alone; as would equal employment programs that address pay inequities directly.