Trends in Occupational Segregation by Gender 1970–2009: Adjusting for the Impact of Changes in the Occupational Coding System


In this article, we develop a gender-specific crosswalk based on dual-coded Current Population Survey data to bridge the change in the census occupational coding system that occurred in 2000 and use it to provide the first analysis of the trends in occupational segregation by sex for the 1970–2009 period based on a consistent set of occupational codes and data sources. We show that our gender-specific crosswalk more accurately captures the trends in occupational segregation that are masked using the aggregate crosswalk (based on combined male and female employment) provided by the U.S. Census Bureau. Using the 2000 occupational codes, we find that segregation by sex declined substantially over the period but at a diminished pace over the decades, falling by only 1.1 percentage points (on a decadal basis) in the 2000s. A primary mechanism by which segregation was reduced was through the entry of new cohorts of women, presumably better prepared than their predecessors and/or encountering less labor market discrimination; during the 1970s and 1980s, however, occupational segregation also decreased within cohorts. Reductions in segregation were correlated with education, with the largest decrease among college graduates and very little change in segregation among high school dropouts.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Blau and Kahn (2006) found, based on controls for 19 occupations, that slowing occupational convergence of men and women explained some of the slowing convergence in the gender pay gap in the 1990s compared with the 1980s.

  2. 2.

    For useful discussions of data issues, see Blau et al. (2010: chap. 5), Cotter et al. (1995), England (1981), and King (1992).

  3. 3.

    “The American Community Survey (ACS) is the new source for the information previously collected through the decennial census long form” (U.S. Census Bureau 2009a: 1). However, we note that there are differences in sample design between the ACS, which uses a series of monthly samples, and the census, which collects data once per decade (U.S. Census Bureau 2009b).

  4. 4.

    See also Jacobsen (1997) for the 1980s. For an excellent summary of studies and findings by decade for the 1950s through the 1980s, see Cotter et al. (1995: Table 1).

  5. 5.

    This comparison is reported in Blau et al. (2010: chap. 5). They noted that the 1990 values of the index differ across the studies (data sets) but argued that the changes in the index may be compared. Beller (1985) made a similar assumption when comparing the 1960s and 1970s decreases in segregation using the census and CPS.

  6. 6.

    Personal communication from Barbara Downs, Chief, Industry and Occupation Statistics Branch, Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division, U.S. Census Bureau (email, September 19, 2008).

  7. 7.

    These data sets are available online ( The data file titled “2000 Based Public Use Extract” contains the 2000 occupation (and industry) codes for each respondent in the CPS for each month over the 2000–2002 period. These data may be merged (using the combination of month, household ID, and person ID) with the standard CPS data sets (titled “Basic Monthly CPS”), which contain the 1990 occupation codes.

  8. 8.

    The CPS uses the 1970 occupation codes from 1971 to 1982, the 1980 occupation codes from 1983 to 1991, the 1990 occupation codes from 1992 to 2002, and the 2000 occupations codes starting in 2003.

  9. 9.

    The percentage of observations that had imputed occupations ranged from 4.0 % to 11.4 % for various years in the census/ACS data, and from 2.6 % to 2.9 % in the CPS data used in the crosswalk. The extent of imputation was similar by gender.

  10. 10.

    Sampling weights are not provided for the 1970 and 1980 census data.

  11. 11.

    A CPS crosswalk, based on aggregate employment, is available from the BLS in versions for converting the codes both forward and backward; see the BLS’s Tables 5 and 6, available online (

  12. 12.

    Legislators and postmasters were included in “managers, all other,” and “judges” were classified with “lawyers”; separate reporting of these occupations was suppressed beginning in 1996 (personal communication from Gregory Weyland of the U.S. Census Bureau, e-mail, Aug. 25, 2010).

  13. 13.

    The crosswalk is available at IPUMS (

  14. 14.

    In contrast to the results obtained using the gender-specific crosswalk, application of the census’s aggregate crosswalk to the 1990 census data yields implausible results for the change in the index over the 1990s: the index is found to have increased by 1.51 percentage points (from 50.52 in 1990 to 52.03 in 2000) using the 2000 occupation codes; see Blau et al. (2012). This conflicts not only with the results in Table 2, but also with our findings using CPS data presented in Fig. 1.

  15. 15.

    National Bureau of Economic Research Business Cycle Dating Committee (

  16. 16.

    Declines were even larger using the 1990 codes. In contrast to the findings for later years, for 1970 and 1980, a higher level of segregation is obtained using the 1990 codes than using the 2000 codes.

  17. 17.

    In the 1970s, the contribution of female production jobs was larger than that of male production jobs.

  18. 18.

    Not surprisingly, given the overall trends in occupational segregation, data disaggregated by decade indicate that this inflow of women into male jobs was larger in the 1970s and 1980s than in the 1990s, and virtually died out in the 2000s.

  19. 19.

    The intracohort results are only suggestive in that they may be affected by changes over time in the composition of the group. Further, the last period shown in the table, 2000–2009, is slightly less than a full decade, but we include it as an indication of the trends over the 2000s.

  20. 20.

    For some suggestive evidence on such trends, see Dewan and Gebeloff (2012).


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The authors are grateful for the helpful comments and suggestions of Andrea Beller, Jessica Pan, Myra Strober, Anne Winkler, the editor, two deputy editors, and three anonymous referees.

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Correspondence to Francine D. Blau.




Table 7 Occupational segregation indexes by gender from 1970–2009 testing various methods for applying the crosswalk, 2000 occupation codes

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Blau, F.D., Brummund, P. & Liu, A.Y. Trends in Occupational Segregation by Gender 1970–2009: Adjusting for the Impact of Changes in the Occupational Coding System. Demography 50, 471–492 (2013).

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  • Occupational segregation
  • Gender
  • Discrimination