Journal of Labor Research

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 173–195 | Cite as

Trends in the Gender Pay Gap in Spain: A Semiparametric Analysis

  • Ignacio Moral-Arce
  • Stefan SperlichEmail author
  • Ana I. Fernández-Saínz
  • Maria J. Roca


This article studies the trend in wage discrimination in Spain from 1995 to 2002, when the third plan for equal opportunities for men and women was in action. To account for the criticism of Heckman et al. (J Hum Cap 2:1–31, 2008), we first introduce a novel approach to the analysis of wage discrimination with methods that are robust to model (mis-) specification. Following their idea, we apply semiparametric methods for the Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition of wage differentials between men and women. We extend the methodology to semiparametric quantile estimation. The study is completed by some descriptive analysis, also based on nonparametric techniques. We find that, while the wage gap has diminished from 1995 to 2002 this is mainly due the smaller gap in returns of endowments for wages above the median, and due to the endowments of women for lower and particularly high wages. Respective the quantiles, in contrast to other EU member states, the Spanish wage gap is widest for low wages but almost U-shaped in 2002 whereas this was not that evident in 1995.


Wage differentials Semiparametric regression Counterfactual quartile regression Gender pay gap Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition 

JEL Classification

C14 J16 



We appreciated helpful discussion with R. Alaéz, M. Ullibarri, A. Alonso, and A. Madariaga (Instituto de la Mujer - Emakunde), C. Hundertmark and R. Ohinata, and the comments of an anonymous referee which helped us a lot to improve this article. The authors acknowledge financial support from FUNCAS (Fundacion de las Cajas de Ahorros) which published an earlier version as working paper (Nº 382/2008).


  1. Aláez R, Ullibarri M (2001) Discriminación salarial por sexo: un análisis del sector privado y sus diferencias regionales en España. ICE, Revista de Economía 789:117–138Google Scholar
  2. Aláez R, Longás JC, Ullibarri M (2003) Diferencias salariales en España: un análisis sectorial/regional. Investigaciones Regionales 3:5–24Google Scholar
  3. Aláez R, Longás JC, Ullibarri M (2009) Visualising gender wage differences in the European Union. Gender, Work and Organization. ForthcomingGoogle Scholar
  4. Arulampalam W, Booth AL, Bryan ML (2007) Is there a glass ceiling over Europe? Exploring the gender pay gap across the wages distribution. Ind Labor Relat Rev 60:163–186Google Scholar
  5. Blau FD, Kahn LM (1992) The gender earnings gap: learning from international comparison. Am Econ Rev 82:533–538Google Scholar
  6. Blau FD, Kahn LM (2003) Understanding international differences in the gender pay gap. J Labor Econ 21:106–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blinder AS (1973) Wage discrimination: reduced form and structural estimates. J Hum Resour 8:436–455CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Booth A, Francesconi M, Frank J (2003) A sticky floors model of promotion, pay and gender. Eur Econ Rev 47:295–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Buchinsky M (1998) Recent advances in quantile regression models: a practical guideline for empirical research. J Hum Resour 33:88–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Budria S, Moro-Egido A (2006) Education, educational mismatch, and wage inequality: evidence for Spain. Econ Educ Rev 27:332–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Butcher KF, Di Nardo J (2002) The immigrant and native-born wage distributions: evidence from United States censuses. Ind Labor Relat Rev 56:97–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cole TJ, Green PJ (1992) Smoothing reference centile curves: the LMS method and penalized likelihood. Stat Med 11:1305–1319CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cotton J (1988) On the decomposition of wage differentials. Rev Econ Stat 70:236–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De la Rica S, Dolado JJ, Llorens V (2008) Ceilings or floors: gender wage gaps by education in Spain (with Erratum). J Popul Econ 21:751–778CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. del Rio C, Gradin C, Canto O (2011) The measurement of gender wage discrimination: the distributional approach revisited. J Econ Inequal 9:57–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Di Nardo J, Fortin N, Lemieux T (1996) Labor market institutions and the distribution of wages, 1973–1992: a semiparametric approach. Econometrica 64:1001–1044CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fernandez M, Montuenga VM, Romeu AE (2000) Wage differentials and non-competitive behavior in the Spanish industry labor market, Documentos de traballo analise economica, nº 9, IDEGAGoogle Scholar
  18. Fisher RA (1922) On the mathematical foundations of theoretical statistics. Phil Trans Roy Soc Lond, Series A 222:209–268Google Scholar
  19. Garcia J, Hernandez PJ, Lopez-Nicolas A (2001) How wide is the gap? An investigation of gender wage differences using quantile regression. Empir Econ 26:149–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hall P, Wolff RCL, Yao Q (1999) Methods for estimating a conditional distribution function. J Am Stat Assoc 94:154–163Google Scholar
  21. Härdle W, Mammen E, Müller M (1998) Testing parametric versus semiparametric modelling in generalized linear models. J Am Stat Assoc 93:1461–1474Google Scholar
  22. Härdle W, Müller M, Sperlich S, Werwatz A (2004) Nonparametric and semiparametric models. Springer Verlag, BerlinCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Heckman J (1980) Sample selection bias as a specification error. In: Smith JP (ed) Female labor supply: theory and estimation. Princeton University Press, pp 206–248Google Scholar
  24. Heckman J, Lochner LJ, Todd PE (2008) Earnings functions and rates of return. J Hum Cap 2:1–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ichimura H, Todd PE (2007) Implementing nonparametric and semiparametric estimators. Handb Econ 6:5369–5468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Juhn C, Murphy K, Pierce B (1991) Accounting for the slowdown in black-white wage convergence. In: Kosters M (ed) Workers and their wages. American Enterprise Institute Press, pp 107–143Google Scholar
  27. Juhn C, Murphy K, Pierce B (1993) Wage inequality and the rise in returns to skills. J Polit Econ 101:410–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Koenker RW, Bassett G (1978) Regression quantiles. Econometrica 50:43–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lemieux T (2006) The Mincer equation thirty years after ‘schooling, experience, and earnings’. In: Grossbard S. (ed) Jacob Mincer, A Pioneer of Modern Economics. Springer Verlag, pp 127–145Google Scholar
  30. Machado J, Mata J (2005) Counterfactual decompositions of changes in wage distributions using quantile regression. J Appl Econ 20:445–465CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Martins P, Pereira P (2004) Does education reduce wage inequality? Quantile regressions evidence from fifteen European countries. Labour Econ 11:355–371CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Miller PW (2009) The gender pay gap in the US: does sector make a difference? J Lab Res 30(1):52–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Moral-Arce I, Sperlich S (2008) A semiparametric Juhn, Murphy, and Pierce – Decomposition for the Spanish Gender Pay Gap: A methodological Note. Preprints of the Centre for Statistics ZfS-2008-04, GöttingenGoogle Scholar
  34. Neumark D (1988) Employers discriminatory behaviour and the estimation of wage discrimination. J Hum Resour 23:279–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Oaxaca RL (1973) Male-female wage differentials in urban labor markets. Int Econ Rev 14:693–709CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Oaxaca RL, Ransom MR (1994) On discrimination and the decomposition of wage. J Econ 61:5–21Google Scholar
  37. OCDE (2002) Perspectivas del Empleo, Informe de la OCDE. Ministerio de Trabajo y Asuntos Sociales, MadridGoogle Scholar
  38. Ruppert D (1997) Empirical-based bandwidths for local polynomial nonparametric regression and density estimation. J Am Stat Assoc 92:1049–1062Google Scholar
  39. Sakellariou C (2004) Gender-earnings differentials using quantile regressions. J Lab Res 25:457–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Simón H (2010) International differences in wage inequality: a new glance with European matched employer-employee data. Br J Ind Relat 48:310–346CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Simón H, Sanromá E, Ramos E (2008) Labour segregation and immigrant and native-born wage distributions in spain: an analysis using matched employer-employee data. Span Econ Rev 10:135–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Smith JP, Welch FR (1989) Black economic progress after myrdal. J Econ Lit 27:519–564Google Scholar
  43. Stengos T, Sun Y (2008) The absolute health income hypothesis revisited: a semiparametric quantile regression approach. Empir Econ 35:395–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ullibarri M (2003) Diferencias salarias entre los sectores public y privado por género, escorialidad y edad. El caso de Espana. El trimestre economico 278:233–252Google Scholar
  45. Wellington AJ (1993) Changes in the male/female wage gap, 1976–85. J Hum Resour 28:383–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Yu K, Jones MC (1998) Local linear quantile regression. J Am Stat Assoc 93:228–237Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ignacio Moral-Arce
    • 1
  • Stefan Sperlich
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ana I. Fernández-Saínz
    • 3
  • Maria J. Roca
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute for Fiscal Studies, Ministry of FinanceMadridSpain
  2. 2.Département des Sciences ÉconomiquesUniversité de GenèveGenève 4Switzerland
  3. 3.Departamento de Economía Aplicada IIIUniversidad del País VascoBasqueSpain
  4. 4.Cantabrian Chamber of CommerceSantanderSpain

Personalised recommendations