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The Glass Ceiling and The Paper Floor: Gender Differences among Top Earners, 1981-2012

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  • Fatih Guvenen
  • Greg Kaplan
  • Jae Song

Abstract

We analyze changes in the gender structure at the top of the earnings distribution in the United States over the last 30 years using a 10% sample of individual earnings histories from the Social Security Administration. Despite making large inroads, females still constitute a small proportion of the top percentiles: the glass ceiling, albeit a thinner one, remains. We measure the contribution of changes in labor force participation, changes in the persistence of top earnings, and changes in industry and age composition to the change in the gender composition of top earners. A large proportion of the increased share of females among top earners is accounted for by the mending of, what we refer to as, the paper floor - the phenomenon whereby female top earners were much more likely than male top earners to drop out of the top percentiles. We also provide new evidence at the top of the earnings distribution for both genders: the rising share of top earnings accruing to workers in the Finance and Insurance industry, the relative transitory status of top earners, the emergence of top earnings gender gaps over the life cycle, and gender differences among lifetime top earners.

Suggested Citation

  • Fatih Guvenen & Greg Kaplan & Jae Song, 2014. "The Glass Ceiling and The Paper Floor: Gender Differences among Top Earners, 1981-2012," NBER Working Papers 20560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20560
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Doepke, M. & Tertilt, M., 2016. "Families in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, Elsevier.
    2. Ralph Luetticke, 2018. "Transmission of Monetary Policy with Heterogeneity in Household Portfolios," Discussion Papers 1819, Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM).
    3. Boschini, Anne & Gunnarsson, Kristin & Roine, Jesper, 2017. "Women in Top Incomes: Evidence from Sweden 1974–2013," IZA Discussion Papers 10979, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Anthony B. Atkinson & Alessandra Casarico & Sarah Voitchovsky, 2018. "Top incomes and the gender divide," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 16(2), pages 225-256, June.
    5. repec:bla:brjirl:v:56:y:2018:i:3:p:463-483 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Xavier Gabaix & Jean‐Michel Lasry & Pierre‐Louis Lions & Benjamin Moll, 2016. "The Dynamics of Inequality," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 84, pages 2071-2111, November.
    7. Thomas Piketty & Emmanuel Saez & Gabriel Zucman, 2018. "Distributional National Accounts: Methods and Estimates for the United States," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 133(2), pages 553-609.
    8. Braga, Michela & Scervini, Francesco, 2017. "The performance of politicians: The effect of gender quotas," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 1-14.
    9. repec:kap:reveho:v:17:y:2019:i:3:d:10.1007_s11150-018-9426-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:eee:eecrev:v:115:y:2019:i:c:p:25-59 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Fortin, Nicole M. & Bell, Brian & Böhm, Michael, 2017. "Top earnings inequality and the gender pay gap: Canada, Sweden, and the United Kingdom," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 107-123.
    12. Jack Britton & Neil Shephard & Anna Vignoles, 2015. "Comparing sample survey measures of English earnings of graduates with administrative data during the Great Recession," IFS Working Papers W15/28, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
    13. Oliver Denk, 2015. "Who are the top 1% earners in Europe?," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1274, OECD Publishing.
    14. Casarico, A. & Lattanzio, S., 2019. "What Firms Do: Gender Inequality in Linked Employer-Employee Data," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1966, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E25 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Aggregate Factor Income Distribution
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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