Sex Discrimination and Women's Labor Market Interruptions
NBER Working Paper No. 4260
The human capital explanation of sex differences in wages is that women intend to work in the labor market more intermittently than men, and therefore invest less. This lower investment leads to lower wages and wage growth. The alternative "feedback" hypothesis consistent with the same facts is that women experience labor market discrimination and respond with career interruptions and specialization in household production. This paper explores the relationship between self-reported discrimination and subsequent labor market interruptions to test this alternative hypothesis, attempting to remove biases associated with using data on self-reported discrimination. The paper provides evidence consistent with the feedback hypothesis. Working women who report experiencing discrimination are significantly more likely subsequently to change employers, and to have additional children (or a first child). On the other hand, women who report experiencing discrimination, and who consequently have a greater tendency for career interruptions of these types, do not subsequently have lower wage growth.
Published: With Michele McLennan, published as "Sex Discrimination and Women's Labor Market Outcomes", IR, Vol. 34, no. 4 (1995): 713-740.