Brain versus Brawn: The Realization of Women's Comparative Advantage
University of Zurich, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics, Working Paper No. 491, Revised version
42 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2010 Last revised: 5 Jul 2017
Date Written: June 28, 2017
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.
Keywords: Technological progress, labor demand, skills, female labor supply, gender education gap, gender wage gap, college attainment
JEL Classification: E23, I24, J16, J23, J24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation