The End of Men and Rise of Women in the High-Skilled Labor Market.

Cortes, G-M., Jaimovich, N., & Siu, H-E., (2018). NBER, Working Paper 24274

Topics: Education, Gender differences, Labour market

Year: 2018

Country: United-States


The present article studies the gender differences in gains in the high-skilled (“with at least a college degree in terms of educational attainment”) labour market. Key takeaway: The rise of women in the high-skilled labour market is explained by the increase in the importance of female (social) skills (“empathy, communication, emotion recognition, and verbal expression”). 


In the last 40 years, a college-educated man was less likely to work in a high-wage occupation (“general managers, physicians, financial analysts, computer software engineers, and economists”). In contrast, college-educated women are more likely to work in those occupations. The authors argue that the increase in the importance of social skills within these occupations has driven the increase in “the demand for women relative to men”. 

Data and Methodology

They use data from the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) and a database of job advertisements to measure the demand of social skills within occupations. They construct a social skills index based on the necessary skills to perform the tasks in the occupations (social perceptiveness, coordination, persuasion, and negotiation). They then regress the female share of occupational employment (based on census data) on the social skill index.

To address the concern of reverse causality, they use an alternative measure of the required tasks by employers. They use the data constructed by Atalay et al. (2018), which contains 9 million newspaper job advertisements, to construct an occupation-level measure of task demands based on “the frequency with which the words (communication, teamwork, collaboration, negotiation, presentation, and social) are mentioned” in an ad. To examine the impact of change in the skill content on wages, they use wage data from the US Census and the American Community Survey (ACS), and run a regression of “the wage premium for women on the social skill index”. 


They show that the rise of women in the high skilled labour market can be explained by an “increase in the demand for female-oriented skills” in high-wage occupations relative to other occupations. This “increase in the demand for female skills” is driven by the increase in the demand of social skills by employers. Finally, they show that “the return to social skills has increased between 1980 and 2000”.

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