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A Supply-Demand Framework for Understanding the U.S. Gender Gap in Education


  • Parro Francisco

    () (Finance Ministry of Chile)


The progress made by American women in higher education has been impressive. In 1970 a higher fraction of men than women completed a college education. During the following four decades, the gender gap in education not only decreased but became negative. However, this was not always so. The pre-1970 period (1950-1970) was characterized by an opposite trend: the gender gap strongly increased. This paper develops a model to quantify, within a unified framework, the relative importance of supply and demand forces on the rise and fall of the U.S. gender gap in education. Specifically, I build and calibrate an assignment model for the U.S. economy with endogenous human capital accumulation of women and men, where three different sources of education gains exist: (1) supply shifts, (2) a within-sector skill-biased technical change (SBTC), and (3) the creation of new high-skill services/sectors. I find that asymmetrical supply shifts by gender were the major force behind, first, the increase in the gender gap during the pre-1970 period and, second, the decrease in the gap during the post-1970 period. The empirical results show positive supply shifts for men but not for women during the pre-1970 period, and negative supply shifts for men together with no changes in supply for women during the post-1970 period. I discuss some explanations for the dissimilar behavior of women's and men's supply during both periods.

Suggested Citation

  • Parro Francisco, 2012. "A Supply-Demand Framework for Understanding the U.S. Gender Gap in Education," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 12(1), pages 1-24, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejmac:v:12:y:2012:i:1:p:1-24:n:30

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hui He, 2011. "Why Have Girls Gone to College? A Quantitative Examination of the Female College Enrollment Rate in the United States: 1955-1980," Annals of Economics and Finance, Society for AEF, vol. 12(1), pages 41-64, May.
    2. Alan B. Krueger, 1993. "How Computers Have Changed the Wage Structure: Evidence from Microdata, 1984–1989," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 108(1), pages 33-60.
    3. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number minc74-1, March.
    4. Francisco Parro, 2012. "International Evidence on the Gender Gap in Education over the Past Six Decades: A Puzzle and an Answer to It," Journal of Human Capital, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(2), pages 150-185.
    5. Jacob A. Mincer, 1974. "Introduction to "Schooling, Experience, and Earnings"," NBER Chapters, in: Schooling, Experience, and Earnings, pages 1-4, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Thomas Lemieux & David Card, 2001. "Going to College to Avoid the Draft: The Unintended Legacy of the Vietnam War," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 97-102, May.
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