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Do Male-Female Wage Differentials Reflect Differences in the Return to Skill? Cross-City Evidence from 1980-2000

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  • Paul Beaudry
  • Ethan Lewis

Abstract

Male-female wage gaps declined significantly over the 1980s and 1990s, while returns to education increased. In this paper, we use cross-city data to explore whether, like the return to education, the change in the gender wage gap may reflect changes in skill prices induced by the diffusion of information technology. We show that male-female and education-wage differentials moved in opposite directions in response to the adoption of PCs. Our most credible estimates simply that changes in skill prices driven by PC adoption can explain most of the decline in the US male-female wage gap since 1980.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Beaudry & Ethan Lewis, 2014. "Do Male-Female Wage Differentials Reflect Differences in the Return to Skill? Cross-City Evidence from 1980-2000," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(2), pages 178-194, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:6:y:2014:i:2:p:178-94
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.6.2.178
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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 205-228, January.
    2. Martha J. Bailey & Brad Hershbein & Amalia R. Miller, 2012. "The Opt-In Revolution? Contraception and the Gender Gap in Wages," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 225-254, July.
    3. Paul Beaudry & David A. Green, 2003. "Wages and Employment in the United States and Germany: What Explains the Differences?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 573-602, June.
    4. Blau, Francine D & Kahn, Lawrence M, 1997. "Swimming Upstream: Trends in the Gender Wage Differential in 1980s," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 1-42, January.
    5. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2002. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 730-770, August.
    6. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
    7. Martha J. Bailey, 2006. "More Power to the Pill: The Impact of Contraceptive Freedom on Women's Life Cycle Labor Supply," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(1), pages 289-320.
    8. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1279-1333.
    9. Mark Doms & Ethan Lewis, 2006. "Labor supply and personal computer adoption," Working Papers 06-10, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
    10. Paul Beaudry & Mark Doms & Ethan Lewis, 2010. "Should the Personal Computer Be Considered a Technological Revolution? Evidence from U.S. Metropolitan Areas," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(5), pages 988-1036.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lordan, Grace & Pischke, Jörn-Steffen, 2016. "Does Rosie like riveting? Male and female occupational choices," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 67682, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    2. repec:aea:jeclit:v:55:y:2017:i:3:p:789-865 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Vahagn Jerbashian, 2016. "Automation and Job Polarization: On the Decline of Middling Occupations in Europe," UB Economics Working Papers 2016/348, Universitat de Barcelona, Facultat d'Economia i Empresa, UB Economics.
    4. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2017. "The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 55(3), pages 789-865, September.
    5. Shulamit Kahn & Donna Ginther, 2017. "Women and STEM," NBER Working Papers 23525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Joanne Lindley & Stephen Machin, 2016. "The Rising Postgraduate Wage Premium," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 83(330), pages 281-306, April.
    7. Riphahn & Caroline Schwientek, 2015. "What drives the reversal of the gender education gap? Evidence from Germany," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(53), pages 5748-5775, November.
    8. Claudia Olivetti & Barbara Petrongolo, 2016. "The Evolution of Gender Gaps in Industrialized Countries," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 8(1), pages 405-434, October.
    9. Estrin, Saul & Stephan, Ute & Vujic, Suncica, 2014. "Do Women Earn Less Even as Social Entrepreneurs?," IZA Discussion Papers 8650, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    10. Aline Bütikofer & Giovanni Peri, 2017. "Cognitive and Noncognitive Skills and the Selection and Sorting of Migrants," NBER Working Papers 23877, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. MORIKAWA Masayuki, 2013. "Postgraduate Education, Labor Participation, and Wages: An empirical analysis using micro data from Japan," Discussion papers 13065, Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
    12. Ben Sand & Chris Bidner, 2016. "Job Prospects and Pay Gaps: Theory and Evidence on the Gender Gap from U.S. Cities," Discussion Papers dp16-14, Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University.
    13. Ohad Raveh, 2015. "Capital-Gender Complementarity," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 35(1), pages 494-506.
    14. David J. Deming, 2015. "The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 21473, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Chinhui Juhn & Kristin McCue, 2017. "Specialization Then and Now: Marriage, Children, and the Gender Earnings Gap across Cohorts," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 183-204, Winter.
    16. Chang-Tai Hsieh & Erik Hurst & Charles I. Jones & Peter J. Klenow, 2013. "The Allocation of Talent and U.S. Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 18693, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Olivetti, Claudia & Petrongolo, Barbara, 2016. "The evolution of the gender gap in industrialized countries," CEPR Discussion Papers 11034, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    18. Bando, Rosangela & López Bóo, Florencia, 2016. "Sex-Differences in Language and Socio-Emotional Skills: Evidence from Large Scale Studies of Very Young Children," IZA Discussion Papers 10315, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • R23 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Regional Migration; Regional Labor Markets; Population

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