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Swemming with the Tide: Solidarity Wage Policy and the Gender Earnings Gap


  • Edin, P.A.
  • Richardson, K.


The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of wage compression for the gender wage gap in Sweden during the period 1968-1991. We find that the effects of changes in the wage structure on women's wages have varied over time and have had partly counteracting effects. Changes in industry wage differentials have systematically worked against women, while the changes in the returns to human capital and unobserved characteristics have contributed to reductions in the gender wage gap. Changes in the wage structure were particularly important between 1968 and 1974 when the reduction of overall wage inequality was dramatic. In 1981, however, the wage compression effect accounted only for a minor proportion of women's relative wage gains, as compared to 1974. At this time, women gained in relative wages mainly because discrimination was mitigated and/or the gender gap in unobserved skills was reduced. Between 1981 and 1991 there is a small increase in the gender wage gap. This small increase seems to have been driven by changed inter-industry wage differentials.

Suggested Citation

  • Edin, P.A. & Richardson, K., 1999. "Swemming with the Tide: Solidarity Wage Policy and the Gender Earnings Gap," Papers 1999:11, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  • Handle: RePEc:fth:uppaal:1999:11

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Blau, Francine D & Kahn, Lawrence M, 1996. "Wage Structure and Gender Earnings Differentials: An International Comparison," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 63(250), pages 29-62, Suppl..
    2. Per-Anders Edin & Bertil Holmlund, 1995. "The Swedish Wage Structure: The Rise and Fall of Solidarity Wage Policy?," NBER Chapters,in: Differences and Changes in Wage Structures, pages 307-344 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Siv Gustafsson & Frank Stafford, 1992. "Child Care Subsidies and Labor Supply in Sweden," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 27(1), pages 204-230.
    4. James W. Albrecht & Per-Anders Edin & Marianne Sundström & Susan B. Vroman, 1999. "Career Interruptions and Subsequent Earnings: A Reexamination Using Swedish Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(2), pages 294-311.
    5. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-442, June.
    6. Suen, Wing, 1997. "Decomposing Wage Residuals: Unmeasured Skill or Statistical Artifact?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages 555-566, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2006. "The U.S. Gender Pay Gap in the 1990S: Slowing Convergence," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 60(1), pages 45-66, October.
    2. Giuseppe Bertola & Francine Blau & Lawrence Kahn, 2007. "Labor market institutions and demographic employment patterns," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 20(4), pages 833-867, October.
    3. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2003. "Understanding International Differences in the Gender Pay Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 106-144, January.
    4. Özcan, Gülay, 2010. "Sector Differences in Glass Ceiling in Sweden -Is It Tied to Occupational Segregation?," Research Papers in Economics 2010:9, Stockholm University, Department of Economics.
    5. Jane Waldfogel & Susan Harkness, 1999. "The Family Gap in Pay: Evidence from Seven Industrialized Countries," LIS Working papers 219, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    6. Carlsson, Magnus & Rooth, Dan-Olof, 2008. "An Experimental Study of Sex Segregation in the Swedish Labour Market: Is Discrimination the Explanation?," IZA Discussion Papers 3811, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Henz, Ursula & Sundström, Marianne, 2001. "Partner Choice and Women's Paid Work in Sweden - The Role of Earnings," Working Paper Series 1/2000, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
    8. Datta Gupta, Nabanita & Oaxaca, Ronald L. & Smith, Nina, 2003. "Swimming Upstream, Floating Downstream: Comparing Women's Relative Wage Positions in the U.S. and Denmark," IZA Discussion Papers 756, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item



    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects


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