When it comes to the sensitive issue of salary, for most Americans ignorance is bliss.
Finding out that you are underpaid among other peers can be so depressing that people rarely will ever broach the subject—not even with their close kin—and can help play into the continued inequity in pay.
“Many workers carry an inflated sense of how well they are performing and how they rank against their peers,” wrote George Anders, senior editor at large for LinkedIn. “Discovering that they aren’t in a top pay band, and by implication aren’t seen as stars, can be quite demoralizing.”
Anders revealed the findings of a new survey by LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence team that showed close to half of all U.S. employees (44%) won’t divulge what they earn even with family members.
The findings are based on a survey of nearly 5,000 LinkedIn Members conducted during the first half of last month.
Outside of blood relations, transparency fares even worse.
Two out of three Americans (68%) refuse to reveal to close friends what they get paid, while mentors, peers, and coworkers stand very little chance.
Over four-fifths (84%) said they would not willingly share information on their pay with colleagues, while just 18% would put their trust in mentors or peers at other companies.
Meanwhile, 17% would refuse outright to tell anyone.
This can be advantageous for employers, as a big hurdle to fairer pay across gender, race, and creed is society’s own fear of the truth.
Once universities in Canada were required to disclose many faculty salaries, the gap between what males and females earned narrowed from 15% at its peak to under 4% over the past 25 years, according to research published by economist Michael Baker from the University of Toronto.
Employees who find out they don’t earn a fair wage are more likely to become dissatisfied with their employer, become less productive, and tend to depart.
“Advocates of greater pay transparency argue that being open about pay is a crucial step toward achieving more equitable pay arrangements,” Anders wrote.
Sign up for the Fortune Features email list so you don’t miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews, and investigations.