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March 2003, Vol. 126, No.3
How does gender play a role in the earnings gap? an update
Stephanie Boraas and William M. Rodgers III
According to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, women earned approximately
77 percent as much as men did in 1999.1 Although the existence of the gender pay gap is well documented, the factors that contribute to it are still debated. One such factor is the difference in the proportion of jobs held by women and men. However, understanding how occupational differences contribute to the gender pay gap is made more complicated by the fact that both men and women in predominately female occupations earn less than men and women in male dominated occupations.
An important question that has not been resolved is, why do predominately female occupations tend to pay less? A number of possibilities including worker characteristics, job characteristics, occupational crowding, devaluing by society of women, and discrimination have been posited.2
This article sheds some light on reasons for the gender earnings gap, focusing on the role that the share of women in an occupation plays. We utilize the methodology employed by George Johnson and Gary Solon to identify the sources of the relationship between wages and the share of women in an occupation.3 Johnson and Solon used Current Population Survey (CPS) data to estimate the relationship between wages and the concentration of females within occupations. They found that the relationship was negative, even after controlling for worker and job characteristics. Industry was found to have the largest effect on the relationship, primarily because predominately male industries, such as construction and manufacturing, pay higher wages.4
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1 Highlights of Womens Earnings, Report no. 943 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2000).
2 See for example, Elaine Sorensen, "Measuring the Pay Disparity Between Typically Female Occupations and Other Jobs: A Bivariate Selectivity Approach," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, July 1989, 62439; George Borjas, Labor Economics (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1996); and Barbara Bergmann, "The Effect on White Incomes of Discrimination in Employment," Journal of Political Economy, 79, March-April 1971, pp. 294313.
3 George Johnson and Gary Solon, "Estimates of the Direct Effects of Comparable Worth Policy," The American Economic Review, Dec. 1986, pp. 111725.
4 Multicollinearity was not a problem because the concentration of women within an occupation was documented at the three-digit level, providing more than 490 occupation categories.
Related BLS programs
Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey
earnings: an overview.Dec. 1999.
Earnings of husbands and wives in dual-earner families.Apr. 1998.
Earnings of college graduates: women compared with men.Mar. 1998.
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