Friday, October 30, 2009

Deskilling and Feminizing an Occupation

In our Social Structure class we are considering Barbara Reskin's "Labor Markets as Queues" and Warren Farrell's Why Men Earn More.

Reskin notes that an occupation draws more women when it is "deskilled." This also leads to pay going down. She treats this as evidence of discrimination against women.

Farrell notes that an occupation draws more women when the task is made easier and working conditions get better. This also leads to pay going down. He treats this as evidence of what happens when the supply exceeds the demand for a job.

In general, Reskin treats lower women's wages as discrimination against women, even though it costs employers more to hire men at higher wages.

Farrell points out that if employers could really get the same work from women, or any kind of workers, for lower wages, the employers would hire them. If it is not illegal to hire from the less-likely group, then some employers will break ranks with custom to save money and reap a competitive advantage.


Brendan said...

I think it's worth noting that discrimination does not imply intentionality. When an educational system or a culture that places all responsibility for child-rearing on women pushes them toward deskilled jobs, that is sexism at work, even if we accept the premise that employers don't deliberately hire men for skilled jobs.

I am also squinting pretty hard at the final paragraph of this entry. We are living in the middle of the evidence that the job market does not function under pure free-market principles, as Keynesians have been pointing out for almost a century.

Gruntled said...

I agree with your first point entirely. I don't think it is really true that our culture places all responsibility for childrearing on women. I do think women want to me home with their small children more than men do for most mothers; this is enough to produce a gender difference in employment rates without discrimination.

Sure, the job market does not function with pure free-market principles. But it takes massive cultural conspiracy, on the scale of Jim Crow, to operate a split labor market. I don't think there has been such a conspiracy against women for at least 20 years.

calyx said...

Men earn more because we put up with more at work than do women. On the other hand women put up with more at home. It evens out.