Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

CSDE Alumni Seminars

An Evaluation of the Gender Wage Gap using Linked Census and Administrative Records

Thomas B. (Brad) Foster, U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies

01/24/2020
12:30-1:30 PM PT
121 Raitt Hall

Despite significant gains in women’s labor force participation and college graduation rates, the narrowing of the gender gap in earnings has slowed in recent decades. By most current estimates, the typical woman earns approximately 80 percent of what the typical man earns. Explaining this gap in wages has proven difficult, particularly as women have come to “look more like men” with respect to their human capital endowments, because of limitations on publicly available data. While these data sources provide good measures of human capital, most do not allow researchers to fully account for labor force experience and occupational choice simultaneously, much less with sufficient sample sizes or precision.

This research seeks to improve our measurement and understanding of the gender gap in earnings by linking individuals’ responses to Census Bureau surveys (like the ACS and CPS) with their W-2 earnings records. We use these linked data to decompose the gender gap in wages, providing novel estimates of the contribution of labor force participation, actual work experience, occupational choice, and occupational characteristics to overall gaps, as well as estimates of residual gender earnings gaps within detailed occupation categories. We then model residual occupation-specific wage gaps as a function of occupational characteristics—such as time pressure, schedule flexibility, and the freedom to make one’s own decisions—which prior work suggests may underlie pay discrepancies, and which may serve as valuable points for policy intervention.


Thomas B. (Brad) Foster is a graduate of the UW Sociology program and a former CSDE fellow. He currently works at the U.S. Census Bureau’s Center for Economic Studies, where he does research (often in collaboration with external researchers at various academic and government institutions) utilizing linked administrative and Census Bureau survey microdata. In addition to the gender wage gap, his research covers a broad range of topics including migration, gentrification, intergenerational mobility among immigrants, the effects of place-based policies on neighborhoods and residents, participation in state and federal benefits programs, and the mobility patterns HUD-assisted individuals.

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