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The Changing Nature of Employment-Related Sexual Harassment: Evidence from the U.S. Federal Government (1978-1994)


  • Antecol, Heather

    () (Claremont McKenna College)

  • Cobb-Clark, Deborah A.

    () (University of Sydney)


This paper examines the changing nature of views towards and reports of sexual harassment using unique data drawn from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (USMSPB) of the U.S. Federal Government over the period from 1978-1994. Our results indicate that while federal government employees reported only slightly more incidents of employment-related unwanted sexual behavior in 1994 than in 1978, the willingness to define unwanted sexual behavior as sexual harassment increased dramatically over this period. The increased willingness of federal government employees to label certain behaviors as sexual harassment does not appear to be driven by changes in the demographic, human capital and job characteristics of federal government employees, rather the changes appear to be due to structural changes in views (conditional on characteristics) of what constitutes sexual harassment. At the same time, more of the change in the incidence of unwanted sexual behavior on the job itself seems to be explained by changes in human capital and job characteristics. Finally, we find that the qualitative nature of harassment in public-sector employment has changed despite the fact that the incidence of unwanted sexual behavior was relatively constant between 1978 and 1994.

Suggested Citation

  • Antecol, Heather & Cobb-Clark, Deborah A., 2002. "The Changing Nature of Employment-Related Sexual Harassment: Evidence from the U.S. Federal Government (1978-1994)," IZA Discussion Papers 619, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp619

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gregory B. Lewis, 1996. "Gender Integration of Occupations in the Federal Civil Service: Extent and Effects on Male-Female Earnings," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 49(3), pages 472-483, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Heather Antecol & Deborah A. Cobb-Clark & Eric Helland, 2014. "Bias in the Legal Profession: Self-Assessed versus Statistical Measures of Discrimination," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(2), pages 323-357.

    More about this item


    public-sector employment; sexual harassment;

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J28 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Safety; Job Satisfaction; Related Public Policy

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