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Still a Wedge in the Door: Women Training for the Construction Trades in the U.S


  • Gunseli Berik
  • Cihan Bilginsoy


This paper uses individual-level data on registered apprenticeship for ten largest construction occupations from 31 states in the U.S. to evaluate the variations in the entry and exit of women apprentices, overall and by race/ethnicity, over the 1995-2003 period. We examine how women’s representation among new apprentices, and their attrition and retention rates varies with individual, training program, and occupational characteristics. We find that women’s representation among new trainees is very low and deteriorating. The results confirm previous findings based on data for the early 1990s that program sponsorship has significant impact on women’s representation and retention. Women have better chances of joining the high-skill construction workforce if they enroll in union-contractor joint programs. Joint programs feature higher shares of women in the incoming classes and higher odds of graduation in comparison with the unilateral contractor programs. The union impact on shares of enrollees is the largest for Black women and the lowest for White women, while White women have higher completion rates than Latinas and Black women. We conclude that union sponsorship enhances women’s integration into the skilled trades, but it is not sufficient. Increasing participation of women in apprenticeship and skilled workforce requires major changes in policies, priorities, and behavior of contactors, unions, and the government to actively recruit women and improve working conditions at the construction site.

Suggested Citation

  • Gunseli Berik & Cihan Bilginsoy, 2005. "Still a Wedge in the Door: Women Training for the Construction Trades in the U.S," Working Paper Series, Department of Economics, University of Utah 2005_05, University of Utah, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uta:papers:2005_05

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Becker, Gary S., 1971. "The Economics of Discrimination," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 2, number 9780226041162, April.
    2. Vivian Price, 2002. "Race, Affirmative Action, and Women's Employment in US Highway Construction," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(2), pages 87-113.
    3. Timothy Bates & David Howell, 1998. "The Declining Status of Minorities in the New York City Construction Industry," Economic Development Quarterly, , vol. 12(1), pages 88-100, February.
    4. Polachek, Solomon William, 1981. "Occupational Self-Selection: A Human Capital Approach to Sex Differences in Occupational Structure," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 63(1), pages 60-69, February.
    5. Daniel Immergluck, 1996. "What employers want: Job prospects for less-educated workers," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 24(4), pages 135-143, June.
    6. Günseli Berik & Cihan Bilginsoy, 2002. "Unions and women’s training for the skilled trades in the U.S," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 97-122, March.
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    More about this item


    apprenticeship training; construction; skilled trades; women; unions;

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J51 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Trade Unions: Objectives, Structure, and Effects

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