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Pay Differences Between Women's and Men's Jobs: The Empirical Foundations of Comparable Worth Legislation

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  • George E. Johnson
  • Gary Solon

Abstract

Civil rights legislation of the 1960s made it illegal foran employer to pay men and women on different bases for the same work or to discriminate against women in hiring, job assignment, or promotion. Two decades later, however, the ratio of women's to men's earnings has shown little upward movement. Furthermore, major sex differences in occupational distribution persist with predominantly female jobs typically paying less than predominantly male jobs. This negative relationship between wage rates and femaleness of occupatiop has stimulated efforts, in both the judicial and political arenas, to establish "comparable worth" procedures for setting wage rates.This paper etimates the relationship between wages and femaleness of occupation and finds that it is indeed negative even after controlling for relevant worker and job characteristics. The magnitude of the relationship, however, implies a surprisingly small effect for a comprehensive comparable worth policy. The estimates indicate that, even if comparable worth succeeded in eliminating this negative relationship, the disparity between mean male and female wages would be reduced by well under ten percent of its current magnitude.

Suggested Citation

  • George E. Johnson & Gary Solon, 1984. "Pay Differences Between Women's and Men's Jobs: The Empirical Foundations of Comparable Worth Legislation," NBER Working Papers 1472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1472
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    1. Grant, James H & Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1981. "Labor Market Competition among Youths, White Women and Others," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(3), pages 354-360, August.
    2. Bergmann, Barbara R, 1971. "The Effect on White Incomes of Discrimination in Employment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 79(2), pages 294-313, March-Apr.
    3. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
    4. Ronald G. Ehrenberg & Robert S. Smith, 1987. "Comparable Worth in the Public Sector," NBER Chapters,in: Public Sector Payrolls, pages 243-290 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Welch, Finis, 1974. "Minimum Wage Legislation in the United States," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 12(3), pages 285-318, September.
    6. Charles Brown, 1980. "Equalizing Differences in the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 94(1), pages 113-134.
    7. Mark R. Killingsworth, 1987. "Heterogeneous Preferences, Compensating Wage Differentials, and Comparable Worth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 102(4), pages 727-742.
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    Cited by:

    1. Pilar González & Maria Clementina Santos & Luís Delfim Santos, 2005. "The Gender Wage Gap in Portugal: Recent Evolution and Decomposition," CEF.UP Working Papers 0505, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.

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