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Separate and Not Equal? Gender Segregation in the Labor Market and the Gender Wage Gap

By Jeffrey Hayes, PhD

A new briefing paper on the gender segregation of occupations shows that after a steady trend towards a more even distribution of men and women across occupations during the 1970s and 1980s there has been no further progress since the mid 1990s.  Segregation is typically lower for workers with at least four years of college and higher for workers with lower levels of education. Until the late 1990s segregation fell faster for highly educated workers than for other workers.


Fall2010NL-Occupational Segregation image


Occupational segregation matters because these patterns reflect barriers to entry to occupations and artificially restrict the movement of the most qualified and motivated people into occupations that would suit them best, exacerbate skill shortages, and reduce economic growth. Occupational segregation also matters because our analysis shows that there is a systematic link between the share of women working in an occupation and median weekly earnings for full-time work. The higher the share of women in an occupation, the lower median earnings at each of three broad skill levels identified in the analysis.


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