Segregation of women into low-paying occupations in the US

Working Paper 2017-426


We present an approach to measure the stratification of occupations by sex. For that, we extend the conventional framework for measuring gender segregation to take into account the quality of jobs (e.g. average earnings) predominantly held by each sex. We complement segregation curves and measures derived from them, with their associated concentration curves and indices, to determine whether women are segregated into low-paying jobs. We investigate with this approach the long-term trends of gender segregation and stratification of occupations by sex in the US using census data. Our results show that de-stratification of occupations by sex was more intense than their desegregation, and lasted longer, even after segregation had stagnated. Neither segregation nor stratification levels can be explained by the different characteristics of male and female workforces, although the profound changes in the composition of workers over time (e.g. education, marital status) did help to substantially explain their trends. Changes in the earnings structure favoring occupations held by women since 1980 additionally contributed to reduce stratification over time. Finally, changes in the conditional occupational distribution by sex only reduced segregation and stratification before 1990.

Authors: Carlos Gradín.

Keywords: occupational segregation, stratification, low-paying occupations, gender.
JEL: J16, J42, J71, J82, 051.