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Why is the rate of return to schooling higher for women than for men?

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  • Christopher Dougherty
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    Abstract

    The rate of return to schooling appears to be nearly two percentage points greater for females than for males in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth data set, despite the fact that females tend to earn less, both absolutely and controlling for personal characteristics. A survey of previous studies reporting wage equations reveals that a higher return to female schooling appears to be the norm, although it has not attracted comment. This paper considers various explanations. The most important involves the detrimental impact of discrimination and other factors that cause women to accept wage offers that undervalue their characteristics. It is hypothesized that the better educated is a woman, the more able and willing she is to overcome the se handicaps and compete with men in the labour market, and an index of discrimination disaggregated by years of schooling is constructed using Oaxaca decompositions. This index is indeed negatively correlated with schooling and it accounts for about one half of the differential in the male and female schooling coefficients. Next considered is the possibility that part of the differential could be attributable to male-female differences in the quality of educational attainment, as proxied by their academic outcomes in high school. The NLSY females did indeed perform better than the males, but there is little association between academic attainment and Earnings and allowing for it made no difference to the estimate of the differential in the returns to schooling. The third explanation considered is that women choose to work in sectors where education is relatively highly valued. Controlling for this effect does indeed account for much of the remaining differential.

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    File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/20034/
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 20034.

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    Length: 39 pages
    Date of creation: Aug 2003
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:20034

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    Keywords: returns to education; wage equations;

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    3. Jacob Mincer & Solomon Polachek, 1974. "Family Investments in Human Capital: Earnings of Women," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 76-110 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2000. "Gender Differences in Pay," NBER Working Papers 7732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    7. Thomas N. Daymonti & Paul J. Andrisani, 1984. "Job Preferences, College Major, and the Gender Gap in Earnings," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 19(3), pages 408-428.
    8. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
    9. Betts, Julian R, 1995. "Does School Quality Matter? Evidence from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 77(2), pages 231-50, May.
    10. O'Neill, June & Polachek, Solomon, 1993. "Why the Gender Gap in Wages Narrowed in the 1980s," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages 205-28, January.
    11. David Neumark, 1987. "Employers' discriminatory behavior and the estimation of wage discrimination," Special Studies Papers 227, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    12. Oaxaca, Ronald L. & Ransom, Michael R., 1994. "On discrimination and the decomposition of wage differentials," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 5-21, March.
    13. Joseph G. Altonji, 1991. "The Demand for and Return to Education When Education Outcomes are Uncertain," NBER Working Papers 3714, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. James J. Heckman, 1976. "The Common Structure of Statistical Models of Truncation, Sample Selection and Limited Dependent Variables and a Simple Estimator for Such Models," NBER Chapters, in: Annals of Economic and Social Measurement, Volume 5, number 4, pages 475-492 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Mary Corcoran & Greg J. Duncan, 1979. "Work History, Labor Force Attachment, and Earnings Differences between the Races and Sexes," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 14(1), pages 3-20.
    16. Joni Hersch, 1991. "Male-female differences in hourly wages: The role of human capital, working conditions, and housework," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 44(4), pages 746-759, July.
    17. Brown, Charles & Corcoran, Mary, 1997. "Sex-Based Differences in School Content and the Male-Female Wage Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages 431-65, July.
    18. Jacob Mincer & Solomon Polacheck, 1974. "Family Investments in Human Capital: Earnings of Women," NBER Chapters, in: Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children, and Human Capital, pages 397-431 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Gunderson, Morley, 1989. "Male-Female Wage Differentials and Policy Responses," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(1), pages 46-72, March.
    20. Kenny, Lawrence W, et al, 1979. "Returns to College Education: An Investigation of Self-Selection Bias Based on the Project Talent Data," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 20(3), pages 775-89, October.
    21. Reimers, Cordelia W, 1983. "Labor Market Discrimination against Hispanic and Black Men," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 65(4), pages 570-79, November.
    22. F. L. Jones, 1983. "On Decomposing the Wage Gap: A Critical Comment on Blinder's Method," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 18(1), pages 126-130.
    23. Cotton, Jeremiah, 1988. "On the Decomposition of Wage Differentials," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(2), pages 236-43, May.
    24. Ronald L. Oaxaca & Michael R. Ransom, 1999. "Identification in Detailed Wage Decompositions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 81(1), pages 154-157, February.
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