Is there a supply side to occupational sex segregation?

Dina Okamoto, Paula England

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examine evidence for supply-side explanations of occupational sex segregation, using the 1979-93 NLSY. Supply-side explanations, such as those derived from neoclassical economic theory and gender socialization, look to individual characteristics of workers, such as values, aspirations, and roles, to explain occupational outcomes. Contrary to human capital theory, we find no tendency for individuals with early plans for employment intermittency or more actual breaks in employment to work in predominantly female occupations. This suggests that women who anticipate breaks in employment do not choose female occupations because of lower wage penalties for time out of the labor force. A second neoclassical view, from the theory of compensating differentials, posits that women sacrifice some pay for "mother-friendly" features of jobs. Consistent with this, white and Latina mothers are in more female jobs than are nonmothers, but the opposite is true for African-American women. The gender socialization perspective posits a long-term effect of gendered attitudes and aspirations formed in youth. Consistent with this, we find that those aspiring to or expecting to work in predominantly female jobs are in more heavily female jobs fourteen years later. Also, for women (but not men), more liberal gender role attitudes predicts working in a more sex-typical occupation. For men (but not women), having had either a father or mother who worked in a female occupation predicts working in a more heavily female occupation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-582
Number of pages26
JournalSociological Perspectives
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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