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A Pollution Theory of Discrimination: Male and Female Differences in Occupations and Earnings

  • Claudia Goldin

Occupations are segregated by sex today, but were far more segregated in the early to mid-twentieth century when married women began to enter the labor force in large numbers. It is difficult to rationalize sex segregation and 'wage discrimination' on the basis of men's taste for distance from women in the same way differences between other groups in work and housing have been explained. Rather, this paper constructs a 'pollution' theory model of discrimination in which new female hires may reduce the prestige of a previously all-male occupation. The predictions of the model concern the range of segregated and integrated occupations with respect to a productivity characteristic and how occupational segregation changes as the characteristic distributions become more similar by sex. The historical record reveals numerous cases of the model's predictions. Occupations that were more segregated by sex, for both men and women, contained individuals with higher levels of the productivity characteristic. 'Credentialization,' the shattering of old stereotypes, and information about individual women's productivities can help expunge 'pollution.'

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8985.

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Date of creation: Jun 2002
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as A Pollution Theory of Discrimination: Male and Female Differences in Occupations and Earnings , Claudia Goldin. in Human Capital in History: The American Record , Boustan, Frydman, and Margo. 2014
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8985
Note: DAE LS
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  1. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709.
  2. Paola Giuliano, 2012. "On The Origins Of Gender Roles: Women And The Plough," 2012 Meeting Papers 1186, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Claudia Goldin & Kenneth Sokoloff, 1981. "Women, Children, and Industrialization in the Early Republic: Evidence from the Manufacturing Censuses," UCLA Economics Working Papers 220, UCLA Department of Economics.
  4. Blau, Francine D. & Brummund, Peter & Liu, Albert Yung-Hsu, 2012. "Trends in Occupational Segregation by Gender 1970-2009: Adjusting for the Impact of Changes in the Occupational Coding System," IZA Discussion Papers 6490, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  7. Goldin, Claudia, 1986. "Monitoring Costs and Occupational Segregation by Sex: A Historical Analysis," Scholarly Articles 2666727, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  8. Edith Abbott & S. P. Breckinridge, 1911. "Women in Industry: The Chicago Stockyards," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19, pages 632.
  9. William A. Darity & Patrick L. Mason, 1998. "Evidence on Discrimination in Employment: Codes of Color, Codes of Gender," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(2), pages 63-90, Spring.
  10. 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.
  11. Edith Abbott, 1907. "Employment of Women in Industries: Cigar-Making: Its History and Present Tendencies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15, pages 1.
  12. Milgrom, Paul & Oster, Sharon, 1987. "Job Discrimination, Market Forces, and the Invisibility Hypothesis," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(3), pages 453-76, August.
  13. S. P. Breckinridge, 1906. "Legislative Control of Women's Work," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14, pages 107.
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  15. Jessica Pan, 2015. "Gender Segregation in Occupations: The Role of Tipping and Social Interactions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(2), pages 365 - 408.
  16. Randall K. Filer, 1983. "Sexual Differences in Earnings: The Role of Individual Personalities and Tastes," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 18(1), pages 82-99.
  17. Kuhn, Peter, 1993. "Demographic groups and personnel policy," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 49-70, June.
  18. Dennis J. Aigner & Glen G. Cain, 1977. "Statistical theories of discrimination in labor markets," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 30(2), pages 175-187, January.
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