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Does Comparable Worth Work in a Decentralized Labor Market?

  • Michael Baker
  • Nicole M. Fortin

We investigate the effect of pro-active comparable worth legislation covering both the public and private sectors on wages, the gender wage gap and the gender composition of employment. The focus is the pay equity initiative of the Canadian province of Ontario in the early 1990s. We document substantial lapses in compliance and problems with the implementation of the law among smaller firms where the majority of men and women work. This evidence provides important lessons of the obstacles to extending pay equity to the private sector of a decentralized labor market. When we focus on those sectors of the labor market where compliance was relatively strict, our results suggest that any positive effects on the wages of women in female jobs were very modest. Our most consistently estimated effects of the law on wages are negative: slower wage growth for women in male jobs and for men in female jobs.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7937.

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Date of creation: Oct 2000
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Publication status: published as Baker, Michael and Nicole M. Fortin. "Comparable Worth In A Decentralized Labour Market: The Case Of Ontario," Canadian Journal of Economics, 2004, v37(4,Nov), 850-878.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7937
Note: LS
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  1. Mattila, J. Peter & Orazem, Peter, 1990. "The Implementation Process of Comparable Worth: Winners and Losers," Staff General Research Papers 10842, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  2. Michael Baker & Nicole M. Fortin, 1999. "Women's Wages in Women's Work: A US/Canada Comparison of the Roles of Unions and Public Goods Sector Jobs," CIRANO Working Papers 99s-02, CIRANO.
  3. O'Neill, June & Brien, Michael & Cunningham, James, 1989. "Effects of Comparable Worth Policy: Evidence from Washington State," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(2), pages 305-09, May.
  4. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
  5. Jeff Borland, 1999. "The Equal Pay Case-Thirty Years On," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 32(3), pages 265-272.
  6. Macpherson, David A & Hirsch, Barry T, 1995. "Wages and Gender Composition: Why Do Women's Jobs Pay Less?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(3), pages 426-71, July.
  7. Orley Ashenfelter & Robert Smith, 1977. "Compliance with the Minimum Wage Law," Working Papers 478, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  8. Judith A. McDonald & Robert J. Thornton, 1998. "Private-Sector Experience with Pay Equity in Ontario," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 24(2), pages 185-208, June.
  9. Kimberly Bayard & Judith Hellerstein & David Neumark & Kenneth Troske, 2003. "New Evidence on Sex Segregation and Sex Differences in Wages from Matched Employee-Employer Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(4), pages 887-922, October.
  10. Perry C. Beider & B. Douglas Bernheim & Victor R. Fuchs & John B. Shoven, 1986. "Comparable Worth in a General Equilibrium Model of the U.S. Economy," NBER Working Papers 2090, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Bergmann, Barbara R, 1989. "Does the Market for Women's Labor Need Fixing?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 43-60, Winter.
  12. Johnson, George & Solon, Gary, 1986. "Estimates of the Direct Effects of Comparable Worth Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(5), pages 1117-25, December.
  13. Killingsworth, Mark R, 1987. "Heterogeneous Preferences, Compensating Wage Differentials, and Comparable Worth," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(4), pages 727-42, November.
  14. Ehrenberg, Ronald G & Smith, Robert S, 1987. "Comparable-Worth Wage Adjustments and Female Employment in the State and Local Sector," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 5(1), pages 43-62, January.
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