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Gender, Occupation Choice and the Risk of Death at Work

  • Thomas DeLeire
  • Helen Levy

Women and men tend to work in different occupations. There has been substantial movement over the last forty years toward a more even distribution of men and women across occupations, but differences persist. Although a great deal of research has been devoted to the measurement of trends in occupation segregation by gender, very little work has focused on the underlying job choice process that generates this segregation. What makes men and women choose the jobs they do? Using employment data from the 1995 - 1998 Current Population Surveys and data on occupational injuries and deaths from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we estimate conditional logit models of occupation choice as a function of the risk of work-related death and other job characteristics. Our results suggest that women choose safer jobs than men. Within gender, we find that single moms or dads are most averse to fatal risk, presumably because they have the most to lose. The effect of parenthood on married women is larger than its effect on married men, which is consistent with the idea that men’s contributions to raising children are more fully insured than women’s. Overall, men and women’s different preferences for risk can explain about one-quarter of the fact that men and women choose different occupations.

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Paper provided by Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago in its series Working Papers with number 0122.

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Date of creation: Sep 2001
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Handle: RePEc:har:wpaper:0122
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  1. Deutsch, Joseph & Fluckiger, Yves & Silber, Jacques, 1994. "Measuring occupational segregation : Summary statistics and the impact of classification errors and aggregation," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 133-146, March.
  2. Robertson, Donald & Symons, James, 1990. "The Occupational Choice of British Children," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(402), pages 828-41, September.
  3. Siow, Aloysius, 1984. "Occupational Choice under Uncertainty," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(3), pages 631-45, May.
  4. Boisso, Dale & Hayes, Kathy & Hirschberg, Joseph & Silber, Jacques, 1994. "Occupational segregation in the multidimensional case : Decomposition and tests of significance," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 161-171, March.
  5. Preston, Jo Anne, 1999. "Occupational gender segregation Trends and explanations," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 39(5), pages 611-624.
  6. Solomon William Polachek, 1985. "Occupation Segregation: A Defense of Human Capital Predictions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 20(3), pages 437-440.
  7. Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2000. "Gender Differences in Pay," NBER Working Papers 7732, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Paula England, 1985. "Occupational Segregation: Rejoinder to Polachek," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 20(3), pages 441-443.
  9. Anne Case & Christina Paxson, 2000. "Mothers and Others: Who Invests in Children's Health?," NBER Working Papers 7691, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Martin Watts, 1998. "Occupational gender segregation: Index measureiient and econometric modeling," Demography, Springer, vol. 35(4), pages 489-496, November.
  11. Paula England, 1982. "The Failure of Human Capital Theory to Explain Occupational Sex Segregation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 17(3), pages 358-370.
  12. Polachek, Solomon William, 1981. "Occupational Self-Selection: A Human Capital Approach to Sex Differences in Occupational Structure," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(1), pages 60-69, February.
  13. Boskin, Michael J, 1974. "A Conditional Logit Model of Occupational Choice," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(2), pages 389-98, Part I, M.
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