Academic Literature

Occupations with Overwork – Lowers the share of college educated young mothers

Despite large gains in the economic status of women over the past few decades, gender gaps in earnings, labor force participation and career advancement continue to persist in many developed countries (Blau 2012, Blau and Kahn, 2006). As women close the gap in human capital investments, gender differences in occupation and industry are emerging as increasingly important determinants of the gender pay gap. Blau and Kahn (2016) document that in 2010, occupational differences account for about a third of the gender wage gap and is, by far, the largest observed component.

But why are the occupational distributions of males and females still so different? One explanation that has received increasing attention, both in the popular press and in the recent academic discourse, is the role of occupational characteristics such as workplace fexibility and workplace ìculture” in explaining persistent gender gaps in job choice, advancement opportunities, and earnings, particularly among highly-skilled women. Long hours of work and infexible working conditions have been cited as important drivers for the lack of women in STEM industries (Fouad et al, 2012, Snyder, 2014) and the corporate sector (Goldin and Katz, 2011, Goldin, 2014).

For reasons that we will explore in this paper, even when employed full-time, women continue to shoulder a disproportionate burden of household responsibilities (Bianchi et al., 2000, Stone, 2007). For example, calculations from the Multinational Time-Use Survey (MTUS) reveal that, across nine developed countries, including the US, women who work full-time spend about one to two hours more each day on household production as compared to male full-time workers. These constraints may be even more binding for skilled women although college-educated women put in more time in the labor market, they spend increas-
ingly more time with their children relative to their less educated counterparts (Guryan, Hurst, and Kearney, 2008). Higher household responsibilities presumably make women less able or willing to accommodate increasing workplace demands for their time.

This paper examines the relationship between the demand for long hours of work (as proxied for by the share of men working 50 or more hours per week) and skilled women’s occupational choice. Exploiting variation across 215 occupations and four decades in the US, we find that the prevalence of overwork in an occupation significantly lowers the share of college educated young married women with children working in that occupation. These findings are robust to controlling for the occupational distribution of similarly aged males and married women with no children, suggesting that the prevalence of overwork reduces the desirability of the work environment for women with family responsibilities and is not merely proxying for other demand side shocks. Similar results are obtained using a panel of European countries.


Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Prevalence of Long Hours and Skilled Women’s Occupational Choices


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