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A Pollution Theory of Discrimination: Male and Female Differences in Occupations and Earnings

In: Human Capital in History: The American Record

  • Claudia Goldin

Occupations are segregated by sex today, but were far more segregated in the early to mid-twentieth century when married women began to enter the labor force in large numbers. It is difficult to rationalize sex segregation and 'wage discrimination' on the basis of men's taste for distance from women in the same way differences between other groups in work and housing have been explained. Rather, this paper constructs a 'pollution' theory model of discrimination in which new female hires may reduce the prestige of a previously all-male occupation. The predictions of the model concern the range of segregated and integrated occupations with respect to a productivity characteristic and how occupational segregation changes as the characteristic distributions become more similar by sex. The historical record reveals numerous cases of the model's predictions. Occupations that were more segregated by sex, for both men and women, contained individuals with higher levels of the productivity characteristic. 'Credentialization,' the shattering of old stereotypes, and information about individual women's productivities can help expunge 'pollution.'

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This chapter was published in:
  • Leah P. Boustan & Carola Frydman & Robert A. Margo, 2014. "Human Capital in History: The American Record," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bous12-1, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12904.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12904
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
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    1. Petia Topalova & Esther Duflo & Rohini Pande & Lori Beaman & Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, 2008. "Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?," Working Papers id:1617, eSocialSciences.
    2. Francine D. Blau & Peter Brummund & Albert Yung-Hsu Liu, 2012. "Trends in Occupational Segregation by Gender 1970-2009: Adjusting for the Impact of Changes in the Occupational Coding System," NBER Working Papers 17993, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
    4. Kuhn, Peter, 1993. "Demographic groups and personnel policy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 49-70, June.
    5. S. P. Breckinridge, 1906. "Legislative Control of Women's Work," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14, pages 107.
    6. Edith Abbott & S. P. Breckinridge, 1911. "Women in Industry: The Chicago Stockyards," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19, pages 632.
    7. Alberto F. Alesina & Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2011. "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough," NBER Working Papers 17098, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Claudia Goldin & Kenneth Sokoloff, 1981. "Women, Children, and Industrialization in the Early Republic: Evidence from the Manufacturing Censuses," UCLA Economics Working Papers 220, UCLA Department of Economics.
    9. Claudia Goldin, 1985. "Monitoring Costs and Occupational Segregation by Sex: An Historical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 1560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
    11. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709, March.
    12. Edith Abbott, 1907. "Employment of Women in Industries: Cigar-Making: Its History and Present Tendencies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15, pages 1.
    13. William A. Darity & Patrick L. Mason, 1998. "Evidence on Discrimination in Employment: Codes of Color, Codes of Gender," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 63-90, Spring.
    14. Paul R. Milgrom, 1984. "Job Discrimination, Market Forces and the Invisibility Hypothesis," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 708R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised 1985.
    15. Randall K. Filer, 1983. "Sexual Differences in Earnings: The Role of Individual Personalities and Tastes," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 18(1), pages 82-99.
    16. Dennis J. Aigner & Glen G. Cain, 1977. "Statistical theories of discrimination in labor markets," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 30(2), pages 175-187, January.
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