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Poverty and Women’s Labor Market Activity: the Role of Gender Wage Discrimination in the EU


  • Carlos Gradín

    (Universidade de Vigo (Spain))

  • Olga Cantó

    () (Universidade de Vigo (Spain))

  • Coral del Río

    () (Universidade de Vigo (Spain))


The functioning of the labor market often has been stressed as a clear determinant in explaining poverty trends in developed countries. In this paper, we analyze the role of gender wage discrimination on household poverty rates in several EU countries, linking two related phenomena that rarely are analyzed together. In order to quantify the impact of discrimination on poverty, we propose the construction of a counterfactual distribution of wages where discrimination against women has been removed. Using this new wage distribution, we compute total household income and compare poverty rates in the absence of discrimination to those actually observed. Our results show that, in general, it is true that discrimination against women plays a determinant role in the current levels of poverty, even if we discover that results for each country present a different pattern and intensity. Further, we find that the effect of discrimination on poverty risk dramatically increases for individuals in households who largely depend on working female earnings, especially in the case of single mothers.

Suggested Citation

  • Carlos Gradín & Olga Cantó & Coral del Río, 2006. "Poverty and Women’s Labor Market Activity: the Role of Gender Wage Discrimination in the EU," Working Papers 40, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  • Handle: RePEc:inq:inqwps:ecineq2006-40

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Barbara Petrongolo, 2004. "Gender Segregation in Employment Contracts," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 331-345, 04/05.
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    4. Coral Río & Carlos Gradín & Olga Cantó, 2011. "The measurement of gender wage discrimination: the distributional approach revisited," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(1), pages 57-86, March.
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    13. Altonji, Joseph G. & Blank, Rebecca M., 1999. "Race and gender in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 48, pages 3143-3259 Elsevier.
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    15. Albelda, Randy, 1999. "Women and poverty: Beyond earnings and welfare," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 39(5), pages 723-742.
    16. Olga Cantó, 2003. "Finding out the Routes to Escape Poverty: The Relevance of Demographic vs. Labor Market Events in Spain," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 49(4), pages 569-588, December.
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    More about this item


    poverty; inequality; income distribution; gender; wage discrimination; labor participation.;

    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
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing

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