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Unexplained gaps and Oaxaca-Blinder decompositions

  • Elder, Todd E.
  • Goddeeris, John H.
  • Haider, Steven J.

We analyze four methods to measure unexplained gaps in mean outcomes: three decompositions based on the seminal work of Oaxaca (1973) and Blinder (1973) and an approach involving a seemingly naïve regression that includes a group indicator variable. Our analysis yields two principal findings. We show that the coefficient on a group indicator variable from an OLS regression is an attractive approach for obtaining a single measure of the unexplained gap. We also show that a commonly-used pooling decomposition systematically overstates the contribution of observable characteristics to mean outcome differences when compared to OLS regression, therefore understating unexplained differences. We then provide three empirical examples that explore the practical importance of our analytic results.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Labour Economics.

Volume (Year): 17 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 284-290

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Handle: RePEc:eee:labeco:v:17:y:2010:i:1:p:284-290
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/labeco

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  1. Maury Gittleman & Edward N. Wolff, 2004. "Racial Differences in Patterns of Wealth Accumulation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  2. Fairlie, Robert W. & Robb, Alicia, 2004. "Why Are Black-Owned Businesses Less Successful than White-Owned Businesses? The Role of Families, Inheritances, and Business Human Capital," IZA Discussion Papers 1292, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Steven D. Levitt, 2002. "Understanding the Black-White Test Score Gap in the First Two Years of School," NBER Working Papers 8975, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  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.
  8. Cotton, Jeremiah, 1988. "On the Decomposition of Wage Differentials," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(2), pages 236-43, May.
  9. Jacob, Brian A., 2002. "Where the boys aren't: non-cognitive skills, returns to school and the gender gap in higher education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 589-598, December.
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  13. 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.
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  18. Ben Jann, 2008. "The Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition for linear regression models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 8(4), pages 453-479, December.
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