Gender Gap Specifics

In my previous post, I asserted that, “once the gender gap shrinks to about 10%, government policy will no longer be able to reduce it rapidly,” based on the fact that the American occupation-controlled gender gap was steady at 9%, and the Swedish one was steady at 8%. Although in terms of the national gap it’s true, it’s nonetheless instructive to see which occupations have a higher gap and which have a lower gap.

The most general rule is that the gender gap increases with social class. In the US, controlling for nothing but full-time status, the white gender gap in the median was 23% in 2004, the black gender gap was 9%, and the Hispanic gender gap was 10%. Similarly, in Britain the gender gap is biggest among whites and second biggest among Indians, the country’s best-off visible minority group. Also, in the US the gender gap increases with education, except among Ph.D. holders.

Most of it is likely due to the fact that women in high-income families have a lot more leeway when it comes to not working than women in low-income families. A woman whose work would increases family income from $45,000 to $70,000 has the option of not working; a woman whose work would increase family income from $15,000 to $27,000 doesn’t. In addition, discrimination in promotion naturally skews the gender gap upward.

So far, so bad. But there are job categories with a far smaller gap than even 10%. These tend to be female-dominated and low-paying. In Sweden, among the top ten female-dominated jobs, the gap ranges from 5% to -3% (p. 76). Contrariwise, among business professionals the gap is 21%.

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