Continuing Progress? Trends in Occupational Segregation in the United States Over the 1970s and 1980s

Francine D. Blau, Patricia Simpson, Deborah Anderson

NBER Working Paper No. 6716
Issued in September 1998
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

This study uses comparable data on 470 detailed occupations from the 1970, 1980 and 1990 Censuses to analyze trends in occupational segregation in the United States in the 1980s and compare them in detail to the 1970s experience of declining segregation. We find that the trend towards reduced segregation did indeed continue into the 1980s at only a slightly slower pace. In both decades, changes in sex composition within occupations accounted for the major share of the decline in segregation (compared to changes in the mix of occupations in the economy). We also find that the pattern of changes in the sex composition of occupations and in the employment distribution of workers that produced the observed reductions in segregation were remarkably similar in each of these two periods. This similarity potentially poses some problems for the future. As women continue to enter the same areas, resegregation, which we found to have relatively moderate effects in the 1970s and 1980s, becomes an increasing possibility. Continued progress towards reducing occupational segregation requires that women succeed in entering a broader range of traditionally male occupations and/or a greater flow of men into traditionally female occupations.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w6716

Published: Feminist Economics (Fall 1998): 29-71. Published as "Black-White Earnings Over the 1970s and 1980s: Gender Differences in Trends". citation courtesy of

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