How Much of the Gender Gap in Earnings Is Associated with Occupational Segregation?

Glenn Firebaugh, Pennsylvania State University
Aggie J. Noah, Pennsylvania State University

To determine how much of the gender gap is accounted for by occupational segregation, previous studies have used various methods to project how much the gender gap would narrow if the labor market were desegregated by equalizing the proportion of male and female workers in each occupation. But there are in fact two gender gaps, and both could be functions of occupational segregation. The better-known gender gap is the gap in average earnings, and the lesser-known gap is the greater inequality among men’s wages than among women’s wages. This study is apparently the first to estimate the contribution of occupational sex segregation to both gender gaps in the United States. Results indicate that in every year occupational sex segregation accounts for a significant portion of the gender gap in average wages, and the effect of desegregation on the gender gap in wage variance depends on how we desegregate.

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Presented in Session 156: Race and Gender Inequality in Economic Outcomes