Factors Affecting Female Employment in Male-Dominated Occupations: Evidence from the 1990 and 2000 Census Data

By Ashraf, Mohammad | Contemporary Economic Policy, January 2007 | Go to article overview
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Factors Affecting Female Employment in Male-Dominated Occupations: Evidence from the 1990 and 2000 Census Data

Ashraf, Mohammad, Contemporary Economic Policy


By understanding the history and the factors that have affected an economic outcome in the past, one may be able to devise policies that influence the future and help remedy the past. Studies point to the presence of segregation between the male and female labor markets. Sanborn (1964) uses the Census data and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data and found that women had a higher concentration in lower paying occupations. Ferber and Spaeth (1984) find evidence of the presence of dual labor markets. They also find that women were assigned peripheral jobs even if they were in the same industry that was dominated by men. Mason (1999, p. 261) tests the implications of the so-called job competition model. The results point out that the ability to get in "white (especially) male-dominated jobs increases an individual's wage rate--regardless of race." Discussing the roles of number of children, age, and education in explaining the earnings gap, Darity and Mason (1998, p. 70) note, "These differences cannot be explained well by human capital differences between men and women; women continue to be more concentrated in lower-paying jobs than men with equivalent levels of education."

Because these studies also point out that male-dominated occupations typically pay higher salaries, a natural extension is the investigation of factors affecting female presence in male-dominated occupations. The understanding of these factors should at least partly explain the lower financial status of women. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, females constitute about 50.9% of the total population. This fact makes females' financial standing, relative to their male counterparts, of significant interest.

This study investigates the roles of age, number of children, education, and marital status on the probability of female presence in male-dominated occupations. The author also inquires if the effects of these factors on female presence in male-dominated occupations are region sensitive. This insight may help authorities target the problem areas and formulate and implement relevant policies more efficiently. The author defines an occupation to be traditionally male-dominated where at least 75% of the total workforce is male. These occupations include but are not limited to doctors, lawyers, scientists, college and university professors, construction workers, and so on. The data section and appendix to the study provide further details.


One of the most prominent features of the labor market is its discrimination against minorities and women. In the United States, numerous efforts have been made to eliminate labor market discrimination. In this regard, the first step toward reforms was the formation of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women in 1961. Shortly thereafter, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed. It was followed by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Executive Order 11375 in 1967, which prohibited discrimination in employment. In the field of education, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which barred sex discrimination in federally assisted educational programs, had far-reaching effects. Other significant legislative acts that followed include formation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and amendments to the act in 1972 and 1978 (see Ethington 1988; Ferber and Lowery 1976; Randor et al. 1982).

The impact of these legislative acts has been the topic of many studies. Employing a time-series analysis approach and using data for the years between 1948 and 1970, Freeman (1973) finds that government legislation was an important cause of the African American economic progress in the labor market. Testing the effectiveness of the affirmative action programs, Leonard (1984) finds that the programs affected the employment of African American males, African American females, and white females positively. A number of studies have examined the impact of these laws on the earnings of women.

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Factors Affecting Female Employment in Male-Dominated Occupations: Evidence from the 1990 and 2000 Census Data


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