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Explaining Women's Success: Technological Change and the Skill Content of Women's Work

  • Sandra E. Black

    (UCLA, NBER, and IZA)

  • Alexandra Spitz-Oener

    (Humboldt University Berlin, IAB, CASE, and IZA)

In this study, we explore a new approach for analyzing changes in the gender pay gap that uses direct measures of job tasks and gives a comprehensive characterization of how work for men and women has changed in recent decades. Using data from West Germany, we find that women have witnessed relative increases in nonroutine analytic and interactive tasks. The most notable difference between the genders is, however, the pronounced relative decline in routine task inputs among women, driven, at least in part, by technological change. These changes explain a substantial fraction of the closing of the gender wage gap. © 2010 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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File URL: http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/rest.2009.11761
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Article provided by MIT Press in its journal The Review of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 92 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 187-194

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Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:92:y:2010:i:1:p:187-194
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  1. Daron Acemoglu, 2002. "Technical Change, Inequality, and the Labor Market," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(1), pages 7-72, March.
  2. Marigee Bacolod & Bernardo S. Blum, 2005. "Two Sides of the Same Coin: U.S. "Residual" Inequality and the Gender Gap," Working Papers 050617, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  3. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2003. "The Skill Content Of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1279-1333, November.
  4. Claudia Olivetti & Barbara Petrongolo, 2005. "Unequal Pay or Unequal employment? A Cross-Country Analysis of Gender Gaps," CEP Discussion Papers dp0711, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  5. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2003. "Lousy and Lovely Jobs: the Rising Polarization of Work in Britain," CEP Discussion Papers dp0604, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  6. Bruce Weinberg, 1998. "Computer Use and the Demand for Women Workers," Working Papers 98-06, Ohio State University, Department of Economics.
  7. Finis Welch, 2000. "Growth in Women's Relative Wages and in Inequality among Men: One Phenomenon or Two?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 444-449, May.
  8. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  9. Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 2006. "Technical Change, Job Tasks, and Rising Educational Demands: Looking outside the Wage Structure," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 24(2), pages 235-270, April.
  10. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2001. "Understanding International Differences in the Gender Pay Gap," NBER Working Papers 8200, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
  12. Lucy Chennells & John Van Reenen, 1999. "Has technology hurt less skilled workers? A survey of the micro-econometric evidence," IFS Working Papers W99/27, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  13. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2003. "Lousy and lovely jobs: the rising polarization of work in Britain," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 20002, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  14. Fitzenberger, Bernd & Wunderlich, Gaby, 2000. "Gender wage differences in West Germany: a cohort analysis," ZEW Discussion Papers 00-48, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  15. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2006. "The Polarization of the U.S. Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 11986, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Chinhui Juhn & Sandra E. Black, 2000. "The Rise of Female Professionals: Are Women Responding to Skill Demand?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 450-455, May.
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