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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

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  • Claudia Goldin

Abstract

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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Suggested Citation

  • Claudia Goldin, 2014. "A Pollution Theory of Discrimination: Male and Female Differences in Occupations and Earnings," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital in History: The American Record, pages 313-348 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12904
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lori Beaman & Raghabendra Chattopadhyay & Esther Duflo & Rohini Pande & Petia Topalova, 2009. "Powerful Women: Does Exposure Reduce Bias?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1497-1540.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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