Gender in the Workplace

Gender in the Workplace

Gender in the Workplace

Gender in the Workplace

Excerpt

CLAIR BROWN andJOSEPH A. PECHMAN

Social Scientists generally agree that one of this century's most important developments in the U.S. labor market has been the dramatic shift in women's work roles, from primarily unpaid work at home to a combination of paid market work and traditional unpaid work. In 1920 fewer than 20 percent of prime-aged women (25-64 years) engaged in any paid labor; by 1980 almost 60 percent did. Even with the dramatic increase in female participation, women's wages have remained at about 60 percent of men's wages. This major transformation in female work roles raises important questions. How has it affected family life and the standard of living? How have women fared in the labor market? Why are they predominantly in lower-paid, less desirable jobs? How have unions affected female jobs? What are the prospects for future occupational mobility and earnings growth for women workers?

This volume, which grew out of a conference sponsored by the Brookings Institution and the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession, brings together economists with a broad range of viewpoints to discuss the economic impact of women's changing work roles. The papers, using a variety of tools, provide an array of approaches to studying gender issues. However, they fall into two basic categories. The first four papers explicitly analyze the structural foundations of the economy by studying various aspects of the social structure in which the economy is embedded. The use of this type of institutional economic analysis to study women's work roles is still in its infancy. Changing sex roles offer an unusual opportunity to study the social structure within which the economy functions. The last four papers empirically analyze the recent outcomes of specific labor market activities in order to identify and measure the important factors involved. This approach is useful in prescribing or evaluating labor market policies, while the first one is useful for understanding and influencing long-run structural shifts.

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