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Brain versus brawn: the realization of women's comparative advantage

Listed author(s):
  • Michelle Petersen Rendall

In the last decades the US economy experienced a rise in female labor force participation, a reversal of the gender education gap and a closing of the gender wage gap. Importantly, these changes occurred at a substantially different pace over time. During the same period, workers in the US faced a considerable shift in labor demand from more physical to more intellectual skill requirements. I rationalize these observations in the context of a general equilibrium model displaying two key assumptions: (1) the demand for brain increases both within and across education groups; and (2) women have less brawn than men. Given the observed US technical change process, the model replicates (1) over half of the narrowing gender wage gap, (2) most of the narrowing employment gap, and (3) all of the reversing education gap. Crucially, the model can also account for the time-varying-path of the narrowing gender divide with an initial stagnation and a later acceleration in female wages and education rates.

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File URL: http://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/wp_iew/iewwp491.pdf
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Paper provided by Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 491.

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Date of creation: Sep 2010
Date of revision: Jun 2017
Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:491
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  1. Per Krusell & Lee E. Ohanian & JosÈ-Victor RÌos-Rull & Giovanni L. Violante, 2000. "Capital-Skill Complementarity and Inequality: A Macroeconomic Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1029-1054, September.
  2. Stefania Albanesi & Claudia Olivetti, 2006. "Gender roles and technological progress," 2006 Meeting Papers 411, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Larry E. JONES & Rodolfo E. MANUELLI & Ellen R. McGRATTAN, 2015. "Why Are Married Women Working so much ?," JODE - Journal of Demographic Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 81(1), pages 75-114, March.
  4. Sandra E. Black & Alexandra Spitz-Oener, 2010. "Explaining Women's Success: Technological Change and the Skill Content of Women's Work," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(1), pages 187-194, February.
  5. Claudia Olivetti, 2006. "Changes in Women's Hours of Market Work: The Role of Returns to Experience," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(4), pages 557-587, October.
  6. Galor, Oded & Weil, David N, 1996. "The Gender Gap, Fertility, and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 374-387, June.
  7. L Yuetyee Wong, 2006. "Women's Economic Progress and Inequality," 2006 Meeting Papers 477, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  8. Chinhui Juhn & Sandra E. Black, 2000. "The Rise of Female Professionals: Are Women Responding to Skill Demand?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 450-455, May.
  9. Francine D. Blau, 1998. "Trends in the Well-Being of American Women, 1970-1995," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 112-165, March.
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