Who Cares – and Does it Matter? Measuring Wage Penalties for Caring Work

61 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2014

See all articles by Barry T. Hirsch

Barry T. Hirsch

Georgia State University; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Julia Manzella

Bowdoin College - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper


Economists and sociologists have proposed arguments for why there can exist wage penalties for work involving helping and caring for others, penalties borne disproportionately by women. Evidence on wage penalties is neither abundant nor compelling. We examine wage differentials associated with caring jobs using multiple years of Current Population Survey (CPS) earnings files matched to O*NET job descriptors that provide continuous measures of 'assisting and caring' and 'concern' for others across all occupations. This approach differs from prior studies that assume occupations either do or do not require a high level of caring. Cross-section and longitudinal analyses are used to examine wage differences associated with the level of caring, conditioned on worker, location, and job attributes.Wage level estimates suggest substantive caring penalties, particularly among men. Longitudinal estimates based on wage changes among job switchers indicate smaller wage penalties, our preferred estimate being a 2 percent wage penalty resulting from a one standard deviation increase in our caring index. We find little difference in caring wage gaps across the earnings distribution. Measuring mean levels of caring across the U.S. labor market over nearly thirty years, we find a steady upward trend, but overall changes are small and there is no evidence of convergence between women and men.

Keywords: caring wage penalties, occupational job attributes, gender wage gaps

JEL Classification: J16, J31

Suggested Citation

Hirsch, Barry T. and Manzella, Julia, Who Cares – and Does it Matter? Measuring Wage Penalties for Caring Work. IZA Discussion Paper No. 8388. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2481577

Barry T. Hirsch (Contact Author)

Georgia State University ( email )

Department of Economics
Andrew Young School of Policy Studies
Atlanta, GA 30302-3992
United States
404-413-0880 (Phone)
404-413-0145 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www2.gsu.edu/bhirsch

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072

Julia Manzella

Bowdoin College - Department of Economics ( email )

Brunswick, ME 04011
United States

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