Preferences for Job Tasks and Gender Gaps in the Labor Market (Job Market Paper)

gelblum_jmp_2019.pdf1.34 MB


Women and men work in markedly different jobs, leading to persistent occupational segregation by gender. This paper provides evidence that gender differences in how individuals value activities performed at work, termed job tasks, may help explain these sorting patterns. I conduct a hypothetical choice experiment to elicit workers’ willingness to pay for a set of tasks that are more frequently performed by one gender than the other. The experimental scenarios ask participants to choose between two hypothetical jobs that differ in terms of pay and the amount of time spent on a gender-typical task, but are otherwise the same. I find significant gender differences in willingness to pay for three of the five tasks that I examine. Willingness to pay is significantly more positive among participants who report spending more time on a task in their current job, suggesting that estimates are correlated with actual sorting behavior. I show that gender differences in preferences for the tasks that I investigate can account for a substantial portion of occupational segregation in the U.S. labor market.
Last updated on 11/01/2019