Gender inequality by choice? the effects of aspirations on gender inequality in wagese

Silke Aisenbrey, Hannah BrÜckner

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Abstract Focusing on the role of occupational choices in maintaining gender stratification, this chapter analyzes occupational aspirations and attainment among those born in the United States between 1942 and 1964. Although male and female life course patterns have strongly converged among younger cohorts, the gender wage gap is still significant. In scholarly and public debates, the differences in choices and characteristics of men and women are seen as one of the main driving forces in gendered wage inequalities. This chapter is structured around the question of whether gendered choices are the driving force for the gender wage gap. We start out with a longitudinal analysis, showing the development of the actual gender wage gap and what we refer to as the aspired gender wage gap. We then demonstrate that, for the youngest cohort, gender differences in human capital, family obligations, and work-life characteristics do not account for the gender wage gap. We also show that it is not – as assumed by human capital theorists – gendered aspirations and expectations that drive the gender wage gap. Our findings support structural demand-side theories that hypothesize that inequality in wages is mainly generated by the different evaluation of women and men in the labor market.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGender Differences in Aspirations and Attainment
Subtitle of host publicationA Life Course Perspective
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781139128933
ISBN (Print)9781107021723
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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