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April 1997, Vol. 120, No. 4
Barbara H. Wootton
The differences in employment distributions of women and men within occupations have been, and continue to be, a prominent feature of the labor market.1 Past research has indicated a high degree of difference that remained fairly constant from the early 1900s up until about 1970.2 The 1970s were a watershed period in occupational desegregation, as indicated by significant declines in measures of occupational differences.3 The advances of the womens movement, the enactment of laws prohibiting sex discrimination, increases in female enrollment in higher education and professional schools, the steady increase in womens labor force participation, and reductions in gender stereotyping in both education and employment all contributed to this trend. Women continued to make inroads into male-dominated occupations in the 1980s, although the pace of change slowed.4
This analysis seeks to update past research on occupational differences between the sexes by evaluating trends over the past two decades, particularly during the period from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s. It includes an overview of current patterns of the gender distribution of employment within occupations and the ways in which they have changed over the past two decades.5 This is followed by an analysis of aggregate levels of occupational differences using a summary measurethe dissimilarity or difference index. Finally, there is a discussion of the change in gender-dominated jobs.
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1 See, for example, Francine D. Blau and Marianne A. Ferber, The Economics of Women, Men, and Work (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, 1986); and Barbara F. Reskin and Heidi I. Hartmann, Womens Work, Mens Work: Sex Segregation on the Job (Washington, National Academy Press, 1986).
2 See David A. Cotter, Joann M. DeFiore, Joan M. Hermsen, Brenda M. Kowalewski, and Reeve Vanneman, "Occupational Gender Desegregation in the 1980s," Work and Occupations, February 1995, pp. 321.
3 Barbara F. Reskin and Patricia A. Roos, eds., Job Queues and Gender Queues (Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1990), p. 16; and Jerry A. Jacobs, "Long-term trends in occupational segregation by sex," American Journal of Sociology, July 1989, pp. 16073.
4 See Cotter and others, "Occupational Gender Desegregation in the 1980s"; and Mary C. King, "Occupational segregation by race and sex, 19401988," Monthly Labor Review, April 1992, pp. 3037.
5 The data used in this article are annual averages derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 50,000 households, conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPS has the benefit of providing the most current data available, as well as consistency in source over time. Some prior research has compared census data for one point in time to CPS data for another point in time (see, for example, King, "Occupational segregation by race and sex, 1940-1988"), which can be problematic because these sources can show different occupational distributions for the same year. See Suzanne M. Bianchi and Nancy F. Rytina, "The decline in occupational sex segregation during the 1970s: Census and CPS comparisons," Demography, 1986, vol. 23, pp. 7986, note 2. Also, since 1983, relatively few changes have been made to the occupational classification system used in the CPS, providing comparability for nearly all of the detailed occupational categories over the period examined.
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