The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations

77 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2016

See all articles by Francine D. Blau

Francine D. Blau

Cornell University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin)

Lawrence M. Kahn

Cornell University - School of Industrial and Labor Relations; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 2016

Abstract

Using PSID microdata over the 1980-2010, we provide new empirical evidence on the extent of and trends in the gender wage gap, which declined considerably over this period. By 2010, conventional human capital variables taken together explained little of the gender wage gap, while gender differences in occupation and industry continued to be important. Moreover, the gender pay gap declined much more slowly at the top of the wage distribution that at the middle or the bottom and by 2010 was noticeably higher at the top. We then survey the literature to identify what has been learned about the explanations for the gap. We conclude that many of the traditional explanations continue to have salience. Although human capital factors are now relatively unimportant in the aggregate, women’s work force interruptions and shorter hours remain significant in high skilled occupations, possibly due to compensating differentials. Gender differences in occupations and industries, as well as differences in gender roles and the gender division of labor remain important, and research based on experimental evidence strongly suggests that discrimination cannot be discounted. Psychological attributes or noncognitive skills comprise one of the newer explanations for gender differences in outcomes. Our effort to assess the quantitative evidence on the importance of these factors suggests that they account for a small to moderate portion of the gender pay gap, considerably smaller than say occupation and industry effects, though they appear to modestly contribute to these differences.

Suggested Citation

Blau, Francine D. and Kahn, Lawrence M., The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations (January 2016). NBER Working Paper No. w21913. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2721774

Francine D. Blau (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Economics ( email )

265 Ives Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-3901
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607-255-4381 (Phone)
607-255-4496 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/directory/fdb4/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

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Munich, DE-81679
Germany

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) ( email )

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Berlin, 10117
Germany

Lawrence M. Kahn

Cornell University - School of Industrial and Labor Relations ( email )

265 Ives Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-3901
United States
607-255-0510 (Phone)
607-255-4496 (Fax)

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute for Economic Research)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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