Essays on gender in labor markets

Curtis R Price, Purdue University


Women entered the labor force in unprecedented quantities starting in the 1970’s. Nonetheless, women are still underrepresented in upper level management jobs. This dissertation is a compilation of three essays that discuss and analyze facets of women’s labor supply, demand, and household decisions. As such, it contributes to the understanding of how women choose to work and the influences and market attributes that women face in the labor force. The first essay uses experimental techniques to replicate the results of recent research pertaining to gender in preferences for competition in the labor market. Previous research has found a drastic difference in the choices of men and women when given the choice of compensation between the piece rate and the tournament compensation schemes. This note describes additional data collected at a Purdue University that fails to replicate these results. In particular, in the data collected at Purdue there appears to be no gender differences in the compensation choices between men and women with both men and women, slightly favoring the tournament compensation. Even after controlling for a number of factors such as performance and confidence across the original experiment and this experiment, there remains a dramatic difference in the choices of women in the data collected for the replication compared to the original study. The second essay furthers the study of competition and gender in the laboratory by studying how gender may affect the use of competitive compensation. To do so, I develop a new laboratory methodology where one group of subjects (managers) selects a payment type for another group of subjects (workers). The results suggest that female workers are less likely to be placed into a tournament. This has direct implications for the demand of female executives where compensation is typically designed with a tournament structure. Second, I document a significant change in the propensity of women to choose the tournament compensation scheme compared to other similar experiments. This increase is consistent with the first essay of this thesis. The third essay uses field data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort (NLSY) to analyze how promotion and wage gains attached to promotions for women vary over the life-cycle of full time workers in the United States. Few studies of promotion have focused on large panel data sets. Notable exceptions have focused on the popular data set from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort (NSLY). Data from the NSLY have been utilized in at least four studies of promotion standards, with the finding that women are held to higher promotion standards than otherwise equally qualified men. All of these studies have utilized older data from the 1984–1990 survey years of the NLSY. During these years the subjects in the survey were between the ages of 19–33 years old. I explore the differences in promotion with data from the most recent survey years from 1996–2006, where subjects are now between the ages of 31 and 46. The findings indicate that although there was strong evidence of promotion disparity in the early years of subject’s working careers; these effects have lessened as they have entered the prime working years. Additionally, I explore the wage gains attached to promotions. While the data from the subject’s early working career show wage gains that favor women, the more recent data shows no discernable difference in wage gains attached to promotion.




Barron, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Economics|Gender studies

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