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Does it matter who responded to the survey? Trends in the U.S. gender earnings gap revisited


  • Jungmin Lee

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and University of Arkansas)

  • Sokbae Lee

    () (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Columbia University and IFS)


Blau and Kahn (JOLE, 1997; ILRR, 2006) decomposed trends in the U.S. gender earnings gap into observable and unobservable components using the PSID. They found that the unobservable part contributed significantly not only to the rapidly shrinking earnings gap in the 1980s, but also to the slowing-down of the convergence in the 1990s. In this paper, we extend their framework to consider measurement error due to the use of proxy/representative respondents. First, we document a strong trend of changing gender composition of household-representative respondents toward more females. Second, we estimate the impact of the changing gender composition on Blau and Kahn's decomposition. We find that a non-ignorable portion of changes in the gender gap could be attributed to changes in the self/proxy respondent composition. Specifically, the actual reduction in the gender gap can be smaller than what the estimates without taking into account the measurement error might suggest. We conclude that a careful validation study would be necessary to ascertain the magnitude of the spurious measurement error effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Jungmin Lee & Sokbae Lee, 2011. "Does it matter who responded to the survey? Trends in the U.S. gender earnings gap revisited," CeMMAP working papers CWP05/11, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:cemmap:05/11

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kristensen, Nicolai & Westergård-Nielsen, Niels C., 2006. "A Large-Scale Validation Study of Measurement Errors in Longitudinal Survey Data," IZA Discussion Papers 2329, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. 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.
    3. Mroz, Thomas A, 1987. "The Sensitivity of an Empirical Model of Married Women's Hours of Work to Economic and Statistical Assumptions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(4), pages 765-799, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christopher R. Bollinger & Barry T. Hirsch, 2013. "Is Earnings Nonresponse Ignorable?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(2), pages 407-416, May.
    2. Christopher R. Bollinger & Barry T. Hirsch, 2010. "GDP & Beyond – die europäische Perspektive," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 165, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).

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    JEL classification:

    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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