Monitoring Costs and Occupational Segregation by Sex: An Historical Analysis

Claudia Goldin

NBER Working Paper No. 1560
Issued in February 1985
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Labor Studies

Supervisory and monitoring costs are explored to understand aspects of occupational segregation by sex. Around the turn of this century 47 percent of all female manufacturing operatives were paid by the piece, but only 13 percent of the males were. There were very few males and females employed by the same firm in the same occupation, and when they were, they were invariably paid by the piece. The group of industries that hired two-thirds of all male operatives, hired virtually no females. Males, but not females, were employed in teams across a variety of industries, and there was segregation by sex across various jobs requiring similar training and ability. Occupations in the clerical sector were rapidly "feminized" from 1900 to 1920 and an organization of work was employed resembling that used earlier in manufacturing. These findings can be understood by considering a model of occupational segregation in which monitoringis costly and males and females have different turnover rates. Employers adopt one of two solutions to avoid shirking -- piece rates and deferred payment. Because females are only employed in one period, piece rates are used for them; males, however, might prefer deferred payment which causes their earnings profile to be steeper than otherwise. Occupational segregation by sex results even if workers are homogeneous with regard to ability and there are nocosts of job investment. Males can also receive higher average wages per period than females. Under a reasonable set of assumptions, females would want to be employed in the male sector,but would be barred from doing so. Establishment-level and more aggregated data for manufacturing around 1890 are examined with regard to the costs of supervising and monitoring male and female workers in time and piece-rate positions.The findings tend to support the assumptions of the model concerning the relative costs of monitoring workers of different sexes paid by different methods.

download in pdf format
   (356 K)

download in djvu format
   (235 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w1560

Published: Goldin, Claudia. "Monitoring Costs and Occupational Segregation by Sex: An Historical Analysis," Journal of Labor Economics, Vol. 4, (January 1986), pp. 1-27. citation courtesy of

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Goldin w8985 A Pollution Theory of Discrimination: Male and Female Differences in Occupations and Earnings
Goldin w11953 The Quiet Revolution that Transformed Women's Employment, Education, and Family
Blau, Simpson, and Anderson w6716 Continuing Progress? Trends in Occupational Segregation in the United States Over the 1970s and 1980s
Goldin w2747 Marriage Bars: Discrimination Against Married Women Workers, 1920's to 1950's
Blau, Brummund, and Liu w17993 Trends in Occupational Segregation by Gender 1970-2009: Adjusting for the Impact of Changes in the Occupational Coding System
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us