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Pay Differences Between Women's and Men's Jobs: The Empirical Foundations of Comparable Worth Legislation

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  • George E. Johnson
  • Gary Solon

Abstract

Civil rights legislation of the 1960s made it illegal foran employer to pay men and women on different bases for the same work or to discriminate against women in hiring, job assignment, or promotion. Two decades later, however, the ratio of women's to men's earnings has shown little upward movement. Furthermore, major sex differences in occupational distribution persist with predominantly female jobs typically paying less than predominantly male jobs. This negative relationship between wage rates and femaleness of occupatiop has stimulated efforts, in both the judicial and political arenas, to establish "comparable worth" procedures for setting wage rates.This paper etimates the relationship between wages and femaleness of occupation and finds that it is indeed negative even after controlling for relevant worker and job characteristics. The magnitude of the relationship, however, implies a surprisingly small effect for a comprehensive comparable worth policy. The estimates indicate that, even if comparable worth succeeded in eliminating this negative relationship, the disparity between mean male and female wages would be reduced by well under ten percent of its current magnitude.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1472.

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Date of creation: Sep 1984
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Publication status: published as Johnson, George and Gary Solon. f"Estimates of the Direct Effects of Comparable Worth Policy," American Economic Review, Vol. 76, No. 5, Dec. 1986, pp 1117-1125.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1472

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  1. Welch, Finis, 1974. "Minimum Wage Legislation in the United States," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 12(3), pages 285-318, September.
  2. James H. Grant & Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1980. "Labor Market Competition among Youths, White Women, and Others," NBER Working Papers 0519, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Killingsworth, Mark R, 1987. "Heterogeneous Preferences, Compensating Wage Differentials, and Comparable Worth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(4), pages 727-42, November.
  4. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Robert S. Smith, 1987. "Comparable Worth in the Public Sector," NBER Working Papers 1471, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Brown, Charles, 1980. "Equalizing Differences in the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 113-34, February.
  6. Bergmann, Barbara R, 1971. "The Effect on White Incomes of Discrimination in Employment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(2), pages 294-313, March-Apr.
  7. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
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Cited by:
  1. repec:fth:prinin:353 is not listed on IDEAS
  2. Pilar González & Maria Clementina Santos & Luís Delfim Santos, 2005. "The Gender Wage Gap in Portugal: Recent Evolution and Decomposition," CEF.UP Working Papers 0505, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.

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