Understanding International Differences in the Gender Pay Gap

Francine D. Blau, Lawrence M. Kahn

NBER Working Paper No. 8200
Issued in April 2001
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

This paper tests the hypotheses that overall wage compression and low female supply relative to demand reduce a country's gender pay gap. Using micro-data for 22 countries over the 1985-94 period, we find that more compressed male wage structures and lower female net supply are both associated with a lower gender pay gap. Since it is likely that labor market institutions are responsible for an important portion of international differences in wage inequality, the inverse relationship between the gender pay gap and male wage inequality suggests that wage-setting mechanisms, such as encompassing collective bargaining agreements, that provide for relatively high wage floors raise the relative pay of women, who tend to be at the bottom of the wage distribution. Consistent with this view, we find that the extent of collective bargaining coverage in each country is significantly negatively associated with its gender pay gap. Moreover, the effect of pay structures on the gender pay gap is quantitatively very important: a large part of the difference in the gender differential between high gap and low gap countries is explained by the differences across these countries in overall wage structure, with another potentially important segment due to differences in female net supply.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w8200

Published: Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, 2003. "Understanding International Differences in the Gender Pay Gap," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(1), pages 106-144, January. citation courtesy of

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