Geography, Joint Choices and the Reproduction of Gender Inequality

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We examine the extent to which the gender wage gap may depend on the fact that dual-earner couples must jointly choose a place to live and work. If couples systematically locate in places better suited for the advancement of the husband’s career than to the wife’s, those choices would then tend to depress the wages of married women relative to married men. Examining data from Denmark, our results suggest (i) that Danish couples weight men’s potential wage gains much more heavily than women’s in their decisions of whether to and where to move, (ii) that these intra-couple preferences may account for as much as 36% of the gender wage gap in Denmark, and (iii) that, ultimately, these differential weightings appear to reflect gender roles, to a large extent inherited from the wife’ parents. We therefore demonstrate that systematic gender inequality can emerge from unexpected places and processes.

Olav Sorenson and Michael S. Dahl

American Sociological Review, 81(5), 900-920 - Direct link