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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 Platt 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, September.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 12904.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12904
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    1. Beaman, Lori & Chattopadhyay, Raghebendra & Duflo, Esther & Pande, Rohini & Topalova, Petia, 2008. "Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?," Working Paper Series rwp08-037, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    2. Dennis J. Aigner & Glen G. Cain, 1977. "Statistical Theories of Discrimination in Labor Markets," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 30(2), pages 175-187, January.
    3. Claudia Goldin, 1985. "Monitoring Costs and Occupational Segregation by Sex: An Historical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 1560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Blau, Francine D. & Brummund, Peter & Liu, Albert Yung-Hsu, 2012. "Trends in Occupational Segregation by Gender 1970-2009: Adjusting for the Impact of Changes in the Occupational Coding System," IZA Discussion Papers 6490, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Alesina, Alberto & Giuliano, Paola & Nunn, Nathan, 2011. "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough," IZA Discussion Papers 5735, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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    8. 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.
    9. Macpherson, David A & Hirsch, Barry T, 1995. "Wages and Gender Composition: Why Do Women's Jobs Pay Less?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(3), pages 426-71, July.
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    12. Kenneth Arrow, 1971. "The Theory of Discrimination," Working Papers 403, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    13. Jessica Pan, 2015. "Gender Segregation in Occupations: The Role of Tipping and Social Interactions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 365 - 408.
    14. 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.
    15. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics and Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753.
    16. Edith Abbott & S. P. Breckinridge, 1911. "Women in Industry: The Chicago Stockyards," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19, pages 632.
    17. S. P. Breckinridge, 1906. "Legislative Control of Women's Work," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14, pages 107.
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    19. Phelps, Edmund S, 1972. "The Statistical Theory of Racism and Sexism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(4), pages 659-61, September.
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