Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Umeå Economic Studies,
Umeå University, Department of Economics

No 889: Time for Men to Catch up on Women? A Study of the Swedish Gender Wage Gap 1973-2012

Åsa Löfström ()
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Åsa Löfström: Department of Economics, Umeå School of Business and Economics, Postal: Umeå University, S 901 87 Umeå, Sweden

Abstract: The Swedish gender wage gap decreased substantially from the 1960s until the beginning of the 1980s. At the same time women had been narrowing men in employment experience and education. While women continued to catch up on men the average wage gap remained almost the same as in the 1980s. The catch-up hypothesis was obviously not the sole answer to the wage-gap. The purpose here was to discuss other factors of relevance for the evolution of the average pay gap. Data for the period 1972-2012 is used in the analysis: The results are mixed and firm conclusions are scarce. Some indications though, the older the women are at first birth the smaller the pay gap and the same for female union membership while unemployment, economic growth, fertility and time made the gap larger. It seems as “time”, often reliable on issues such as changes in attitudes and prejudices, cannot settle this. One finding, common in other studies as well, is the influence “children” may have on the wage gap. If postponement of motherhood and/or fewer children is necessary to reduce the gender wage gap the question whether this is desirable or not must be addressed more seriously. If the answer is “no” it may be high time for men to catch up on women - through sharing the full responsibility for children and household duties.

Keywords: Gender wage-gap; education; employment; fertility; parental leave

JEL-codes: J30; J31; J38; J68

35 pages, June 11, 2014

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