A Cross-Cohort Analysis of Human Capital Specialization and the College Gender Wage Gap

46 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2019

See all articles by Carolyn Sloane

Carolyn Sloane

University of California Riverside

Erik Hurst

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Dan Black

University of Chicago - Harris Public Policy

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 29, 2019

Abstract

This paper explores the importance of pre-market human capital specialization in ex-plaining gender differences in labor market outcomes among the highly skilled. Using new data with detailed undergraduate major information for several cohorts of American college graduates, we establish many novel facts. First, we show evidence of a gender convergence in college major choice over the last 40 years. Second, we highlight that women today still choose college majors associated with lower potential wages than men. Third, we report gender differences in the mapping from major to occupation. Even conditional on major, women systematically choose lower potential wage and lower potential hours-worked occupations than men. Fourth, we document a modest gender convergence between the 1950 and 1990 birth cohorts in the mapping of major to occupation. Finally, we show that college major choice has strong predictive power in explaining gender wage gaps independent of occupation choice. Collectively, our results suggest the importance of further understanding gender differences in pre-labor market specialization including college major choice.

Suggested Citation

Sloane, Carolyn and Hurst, Erik and Black, Dan, A Cross-Cohort Analysis of Human Capital Specialization and the College Gender Wage Gap (September 29, 2019). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2019-121. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3464022 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3464022

Carolyn Sloane

University of California Riverside ( email )

900 University Avenue
Riverside, CA 92521
United States

Erik Hurst (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Dan Black

University of Chicago - Harris Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
15
Abstract Views
80
PlumX Metrics