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The Effects of Rising Female Labor Supply on Male Wages

  • Chinhui Juhn
  • Dae Il Kim

This paper examines the extent to which rapid increases in female labor supply contributed to rising wage inequality and to declining real wages of less skilled males during the 1980s. We find that while the male wage declines are concentrated in the 1980s, female labor supply growth slowed in the 1980s relative to the 1970s. Women also increased the relative supply of skill in the economy in the 1980s. We find these findings to be inconsistent with a simple story in which supply shifts among women have played a major role. Instead, they further support the view that demand shifts, rather than supply shifts, have been the underlying cause of declining opportunities for less skilled males and rapid inequality growth in the 1980s. We also use state and SMSA-level data to estimate cross- substitution effects between men and women of different skill types. We find weak evidence that women may be substitutes for high school dropout men and that college educated women may have contributed to wage inequality growth by being better substitutes for high school dropout men than high school graduate men. We end with some suggestive evidence that unmeasured demand shifts which favored skilled female workers over less skilled male workers may be biasing our results towards finding substitution between these two groups.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 5236.

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Date of creation: Aug 1995
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 17 (January 1999).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5236
Note: LS
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  1. Robert J. LaLonde & Robert H. Topel, 1991. "Labor Market Adjustments to Increased Immigration," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration, Trade, and the Labor Market, pages 167-199 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. John Bound & Harry J. Holzer, 1991. "Industrial Shifts, Skills Levels, and the Labor Market for White and Black Males," NBER Working Papers 3715, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. George J. Borjas, 1986. "The Demographic Determinants of the Demand for Black Labor," NBER Chapters, in: The Black Youth Employment Crisis, pages 191-232 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Levy, Frank & Murnane, Richard J, 1992. "U.S. Earnings Levels and Earnings Inequality: A Review of Recent Trends and Proposed Explanations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 30(3), pages 1333-81, September.
  5. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Lawrence F. Katz, 1992. "Regional Evolutions," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(1), pages 1-76.
  6. 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 354-60, August.
  7. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-42, June.
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