Setting the Pay for the Jobs Women Hold

  • Barbara R. Bergmann


The labor market, through the workings of supply and demand, awarded women with full-time secretarial jobs an average of $496 a week in 2002. Women with jobs selling radios, television sets, and similar appliances were awarded less pay—an average of $435.1 The wage paid in any job is influenced by the skill and knowledge it requires. Jobs that require higher skills—more “human capital” acquired through training and experience—will tend to pay more than jobs that require less or none. So one might conclude that the skills secretaries need were worth 14 percent more than the skills television salespeople need.


Labor Market Human Capital Woman Worker Occupational Segregation Class Passenger 
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  1. 2.
    See the discussion in chapter 4 of Mary Corcoran and Greg J. Duncan, “Work History, Labor Force Attachment, and Earnings Differences between the Sexes,” Journal of Human Resources 14 (winter 1979): 3–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Solomon Polachek, “Occupational Self-Selection: A Human Capital Approach to Sex Differences in Occupational Structure,” Review of Economics and Statistics 63, 1 (February 1981): 60–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Gary S. Becker, “Human Capital, Effort, and the Sexual Division of Labor,” Journal of Labor Economics 3, 1, part 2 (January 1985): S33 - S58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 7.
    William T. Bielby and James N. Baron, “A Woman’s Place is with Other Women: Sex Segregation Within Organizations,” in Barbara F. Reskin (ed.), Sex Segregation in the Workplace (Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1984), pp. 27–55.Google Scholar
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    See Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, Gender & Racial Inequality at Work: The Sources and Consequences of Job Segregation (Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1993).Google Scholar
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    Sometimes economists speak of a single labor market divided into segments based on sex, and also on class and human capital differences. Workers are compartmentalized into particular segments, and cannot move from one segment to another. The idea of a “dual labor market” is similar. See Peter Doeringer and Michael J. Piore, Internal Labor Markets and Manpower Analysis (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Co., 1971).Google Scholar
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    For a more technical discussion of these issues, see Barbara R. Bergmann, “Occupational Segregation, Wages and Profits when Employers Discriminate by Race or Sex,” Eastern Economic Journal 1 (April/July 1974): 561–573.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Early research on this issue was done by Francine D. Blau. See her Equal Pay in the Office (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Co., 1977).Google Scholar
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    This has been documented for British establishments in Rosemary Cromption and Gareth Jones, White-Collar Proletariat: Deskilling and Gender in Clerical Work (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1984).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Stanley Holmes, “A New Black Eye For Boeing? Internal Documents Suggest Years of Serious Compensation Gaps for Women,” Business Week Online, April 26, 2004.Google Scholar
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    See Rosabeth Canter, Men and Women of the Corporation (New York: Basic Books, 1977).Google Scholar
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    Claudia Goldin, “The Gender Gap in Historical Perspective,” in Comparable Worth: Issue for the 80s (Washington, DC: U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, 1984).Google Scholar
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    See chapter 7 of Paula England and George Farkas, Households, Employment, and Gender: A Social, Economic and Demographic View (New York: Aldine, 1985).Google Scholar
  14. 27.
    Perhaps this is a better interpretation of Becker’s discrimination coefficient. See Gary S. Becker, The Economics of Discrimination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957).Google Scholar

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© Barbara R. Bergmann 2005

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  • Barbara R. Bergmann

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