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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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    Cited by:

    1. Doepke, M. & Tertilt, M., 2016. "Families in Macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & Harald Uhlig (ed.),Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 0, pages 1789-1891, Elsevier.
    2. Ralph Luetticke, 2018. "Transmission of Monetary Policy with Heterogeneity in Household Portfolios," Discussion Papers 1819, Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM).
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    4. Boschini, Anne & Gunnarsson, Kristin & Roine, Jesper, 2017. "Women in Top Incomes – Evidence from Sweden 1974-2013," Working Paper Series 5/2017, Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research.
    5. 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.
    6. Fatih Karahan & Serdar Ozkan & Jae Song, 2019. "Anatomy of Lifetime Earnings Inequality: Heterogeneity in Job Ladder Risk vs. Human Capital," Staff Reports 908, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
    7. Bailey, Martha & Byker, Tanya & Patel, Elena & Ramnath, Shanthi, 2019. "The Long-Term Effects of California's 2004 Paid Family Leave Act on Women's Careers: Evidence from U.S. Tax Data," CEPR Discussion Papers 14217, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Ian Gregory‐Smith, 2018. "Positive Action Towards Gender Equality: Evidence from the Athena SWAN Charter in UK Medical Schools," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 56(3), pages 463-483, September.
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    15. Oliver Denk, 2015. "Who are the top 1% earners in Europe?," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1274, OECD Publishing.
    16. Terhi Ravaska, 2018. "Top incomes and income dynamics from a gender perspective: Evidence from Finland 1995–2012," Working Papers 321, Palkansaajien tutkimuslaitos, Labour Institute for Economic Research.
    17. 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.
    18. Lusi Liao & Sasiwimon W. Paweenawat, 2020. "A Glass Ceiling? Gender Inequality of Top Earners in Thailand," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 40(1), pages 500-515.
    19. Roman Bobilev & Anne Boschini & Jesper Roine, 2020. "Women in the Top of the Income Distribution: What Can We Learn From LIS-Data?," Italian Economic Journal: A Continuation of Rivista Italiana degli Economisti and Giornale degli Economisti, Springer;Società Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association), vol. 6(1), pages 63-107, March.
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    21. Boschini, Anne & Gunnarsson, Kristin & Roine, Jesper, 2020. "Women in top incomes – Evidence from Sweden 1971–2017," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 181(C).
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    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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