Introduction to Sociology
Wednesday March 24, 2010
Topic: Gender (cont’d) and Family
B. Theoretical explanations for the gender gap in pay
1. Human capital theory (economists)
a. Argument: Human capital theory is advanced by economists,
and explains wage differences as the result of individual
differences between workers.
The labor market is believed to
operate fairly, along standard rules of competition. Those with the
most skill, education, and work experience earn the most money.
Women are believed to earn less than men do because they invest
less in their “human capital” such as their education or work
experience. Thus, women deserve their lower pay.
i. A further argument is that women’s human capital tends
to become devalued over time, as women reduce their LFP
in order to raise children. Women either exit the labor
market or cut back on paid employment when they have
children and thus “deserve” less pay because they are fewer
skills to sell on the market.
b. Evidence for HCT: Weak. When men and women are matched
on educational attainment, years work experience, and hours
worked per week, men still earn significantly more than women.
The earnings gap DECLINES when human capital characteristics
are taken into consideration, yet the gap still persists.
2. The kinds of work women do (dual labor market theory)
a. Argument: The dual labor market is a theoretical description of
the occupational system as comprised of two systems: the primary
labor market and secondary labor market. Women and men work
in different segments of the labor market, and these differences are
reflected in their pay. Thus, the gender gap does not reflect
personal characteristics, but rather the type of sectors that people
work in. IMPORTANT: Sectors are different than jobs.
i. Primary labor market
- Jobs are relatively stable, wages
are good, opportunities for advancement exist, and fringe
benefits are quite good. These tend to be jobs in major
corporations, where there are ladders of upward mobility.
Even within this sector there are high-status managerial and
professional jobs, and blue-collar and clerical jobs. The
second tier jobs are still secure, yet they still provide fewer
intrinsic and extrinsic benefits than the former (e.g., jobs in
major corporations, school systems, hospitals, etc.).