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

58 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2019 Last revised: 10 Jul 2020

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 School of Public Policy

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 4, 2020

Abstract

In this paper, we exploit new data to assess gender differences in pre-labor market specialization among the college educated and highlight how those differences have evolved over time. We highlight new results pertaining to gender differences in the mapping between undergraduate major and subsequent occupational sorting. To perform our analysis, we introduce new indices in potential wage space that measure gender differences in major choice and separately the subsequent occupational sorting conditional on major choice. We highlight that women both choose majors with lower potential earnings (based on male wages associated with those majors) and that they then sub-sequently sort into occupations with lower potential earnings given their major choice. We highlight that these differences have narrowed over time but recent cohorts of women still choose majors and occupations with lower potential earnings. Differences in undergraduate major choice explains a substantive portion of gender wage gaps for the college educated above and beyond simply controlling for occupation. Collectively, our results highlight the importance of understanding gender differences in pre-labor market human capital specialization and the mapping between college major and occupational sorting when studying the evolution of gender differences in labor market outcomes over time.

Suggested Citation

Sloane, Carolyn and Hurst, Erik and Black, Dan, A Cross-Cohort Analysis of Human Capital Specialization and the College Gender Wage Gap (February 4, 2020). 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 School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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