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J Hum Resour. 2008 Summer;43(3):630-659.

Gender Wage Disparities among the Highly Educated.

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University of Chicago & NORC Harris School University of Chicago 1155 East 60 Street Chicago, IL 60637.
Rand RAND Corporation Pittsburgh Office 201 N. Craig St. Pittsburgh, PA 15213.
University of Maryland Department of Economics 3105 Tydings Hall University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742
Carnegie Melon University Heinz School Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA 15213 (412) 268-3278


In the U.S. college-educated women earn approximately 30 percent less than their non-Hispanic white male counterparts. We conduct an empirical examination of this wage disparity for four groups of women-non-Hispanic white, black, Hispanic, and Asian-using the National Survey of College Graduates, a large data set that provides unusually detailed information on higher-level education. Nonparametric matching analysis indicates that among men and women who speak English at home, between 44 and 73 percent of the gender wage gaps are accounted for by such pre-market factors as highest degree and major. When we restrict attention further to women who have "high labor force attachment" (i.e., work experience that is similar to male comparables) we account for 54 to 99 percent of gender wage gaps. Our nonparametric approach differs from familiar regression-based decompositions, so for the sake of comparison we conduct parametric analyses as well. Inferences drawn from these latter decompositions can be quite misleading.


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