Skip to main content

The Evolution of Occupational Segregation in the United States, 1940–2010: Gains and Losses of Gender–Race/Ethnicity Groups

Abstract

The aim of this article is twofold: (1) to descriptively explore the evolution of occupational segregation of women and men of different racial/ethnic groups in the United States during 1940–2010, and (2) to assess the consequences of segregation for each group. For that purpose, in this article, we propose a simple index that measures the monetary loss or gain of a group derived from its overrepresentation in some occupations and underrepresentation in others. This index has a clear economic interpretation. It represents the per capita advantage (if the index is positive) or disadvantage (if the index is negative) of the group, derived from its segregation, as a proportion of the average wage of the economy. Our index is a helpful tool not only for academics but also for institutions concerned with inequalities among demographic groups because it makes it possible to rank them according to their segregational nature.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Notes

  1. This index has been used to quantify segregation in the United States (Alonso-Villar et al. 2012, 2013).

  2. For studies applying these measures to explore occupational segregation by race/ethnicity and/or gender in the United States, see Watts (1995) and Gradín et al. (2015).

  3. This average wage actually coincides with the average wage of the economy because the wage of each occupation is determined by the average wage of the individuals working there.

  4. This per capita earning gap ratio is the difference between the average wage of the group and the average wage of the economy, expressed as a proportion of the latter.

  5. See https://usa.ipums.org/usa-action/variables/OCC1950#comparability_section.

  6. The residual category “other race” is different each year. In particular, multiple-race responses were allowed since 2000. Regarding Hispanic origin, there is a break between 1970 and 1980; before 1980, the origin was imputed by IPUMS.

  7. We have trimmed the tails of the hourly wage distribution to prevent data contamination from outliers. Thus, we computed the trimmed average in each occupation eliminating all workers whose wage is either 0 or situated below the first or above the ninety-ninth percentile of positive values in that occupation.

  8. Hegewisch et al. (2010) found a similar evolution when analyzing whites, blacks, and Hispanics separately, although in this case, no further progress is observed between mid-1990s and 2009. Asians, however, do improve at the beginning of the 2000s.

  9. This evolution is in line with that obtained by Watts (1995) for the period 1983–1992 using the I p index proposed by Silber (1992) and considering 6 rather than 12 groups.

  10. The rise in segregation by gender between 1940 and 1960—as documented by Blau and Hendricks (1979) for 1950–1960 and shown in Fig. 1—seems to be mainly due to a rise in the segregation of white men—who accounted for more than 60 % of workers—and also of black men because the segregation of white women—who accounted for almost 30 % of workers—and that of other minority women and men actually fell during this period.

  11. The evolution of the segregation of black women reported in Fig. 2 was previously shown by Alonso-Villar and Del Río (2013), who undertook an in-depth analysis of this particular group.

  12. Queneau (2009) also documented a decrease in the segregation between blacks and nonblacks between 1983 and 2002, although this study did not distinguish between women and men.

  13. The demographic weights are given in Table 2 in the appendix.

  14. This percentage had been increasing since 1980 (when it was 54 %) because the reduction in the earning gap of white women due to segregation has been larger than the reduction in their salary disadvantage within occupations. Petersen and Morgan (1995) documented the important role of occupational segregation in explaining the wage gap of women in the early 1980s, although they did not distinguish women by race.

  15. As we mention earlier, this index responds only to those wage disparities that arise from working in different occupations, ignoring wage disparities or discrimination within occupations. In fact, as Fig. 4 shows, the situation of black and Hispanic women is worse when these wage disparities are taken into account (their per capita earning gap ratios are –21 and –32, respectively). Conrad (2005) documented the widening wage gap for black women with respect to white women between 1980 and 2000 derived from the persistent discrimination as well as the racial gap in education that still remains.

  16. The proportion of Asian Indians who have a bachelor’s degree or higher education is more than twice as much as that of Vietnamese (Allard 2011). Kim and Mar (2007) also documented wide differences among Asian groups in terms of poverty and unemployment rates.

  17. The earnings gap for this subgroup is mainly explained by the within component (Fig. 6), which suggests that although they are not particularly concentrated in bad occupations, they are penalized within them.

References

  • Allard, M. D. (2011). Asians in the U.S. labor force: Profile of a diverse population. Monthly Labor Review, November, 3–22.

  • Alonso-Villar, O., & Del Río, C. (2010). Local versus overall segregation measures. Mathematical Social Sciences, 60, 30–38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Alonso-Villar, O., & Del Río, C. (2013). The occupational segregation of black women in the United States: A look at its evolution from 1940 to 2010 (ECINEQ Working Paper No. 2013-304). Verona, Italy: Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.

  • Alonso-Villar, O., Del Río, C., & Gradín, C. (2012). The extent of occupational segregation in the United States: Differences by race, ethnicity, and gender. Industrial Relations, 51, 179–212.

    Google Scholar 

  • Alonso-Villar, O., Gradín, C., & Del Río, C. (2013). Occupational segregation of Hispanics in US metropolitan areas. Applied Economics, 45, 4298–4307.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Beller, A. H. (1985). Changes in the sex composition of U.S. occupations, 1960–1981. Journal of Human Resources, 20, 235–250.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bianchi, S. M., & Rytina, N. (1986). The decline of occupational sex segregation during the 1970s: Census and CPS comparisons. Demography, 23, 79–86.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blau, F. D., Brummund, P., & Liu, A. Y.-H. (2013). Trends in occupational segregation by gender 1970–2009: Adjusting for the impact of changes in the occupational coding system. Demography, 50, 471–492.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blau, F. D., Ferber, M. A., & Winkler, A. E. (2001). The economics of women, men, and work. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blau, F. D., & Hendricks, W. E. (1979). Occupational segregation by sex: Trends and prospects. Journal of Human Resources, 14, 197–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boisso, D., Hayes, K., Hirschberg, J., & Silber, J. (1994). Occupational segregation in the multidimensional case. Decomposition and tests of significance. Journal of Econometrics, 61, 161–171.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Browne, I., & Misra, J. (2003). The intersection of gender and race in the labor market. Annual Review of Sociology, 29, 487–513.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, P. N., & Huffman, M. L. (2003). Occupational segregation and the devaluation of women’s work across U.S. labor markets. Social Forces, 81, 881–908.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Conrad, C. A. (2005). Changes in the labor market status of black women, 1960–2000. In C. A. Conrad, J. Whitehead, P. L. Mason, & J. Steward (Eds.), African Americans in the U.S. economy (pp. 157–162). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cotter, D. A., Hermsen, J. M., & Vanneman, R. (1999). Systems of gender, race, and class inequality: Multilevel analyses. Social Forces, 78, 433–460.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Duncan, B., Hotz, V. J., & Trejo, S. J. (2006). Hispanics in the U.S. labor market. In M. Tienda & F. Mitchell (Eds.), Hispanics and the future of America (pp. 228–290). Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Frankel, D. M., & Volij, O. (2011). Measuring school segregation. Journal of Economic Theory, 146, 1–38.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gradín, C. (2013). Conditional occupational segregation of minorities in the US. Journal of Economic Inequality, 11, 473–493.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gradín, C., Del Río, C., & Alonso-Villar, O. (2015). Occupational segregation by race and ethnicity in the United States: Differences across states. Regional Studies. Advance online publication. doi:10.1080/00343404.2013.864384

  • Hegewisch, A., Liepmann, H., Hayes, J., & Hartmann, H. (2010). Separate and not equal? Gender segregation in the labor market and the gender wage gap (IWPR Briefing Paper No. C377). Washington, DC: Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

  • Kaufman, R. L. (2010). Race, gender, and the labor market: Inequalities at work. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kim, M., & Mar, D. (2007). The economic status of Asian Americans. In M. Kim (Ed.), Race and economic opportunity in the twenty-first century (pp. 148–184). New York, NY: Routledge Frontiers of Political Economy.

    Google Scholar 

  • King, M. C. (1992). Occupational segregation by race and sex, 1940–88. Monthly Labor Review, 115(4), 30–37.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kurtulus, F. A. (2012). Affirmative action and the occupational advancement of minorities and women during 1973–2003. Industrial Relations, 51, 213–246.

    Google Scholar 

  • Levanon, A., England, P., & Allison, P. (2009). Occupational feminization and pay: Assessing causal dynamics using 1950–2000 U.S. census data. Social Forces, 88, 865–981.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mintz, B., & Krymkowski, D. H. (2011). The intersection of race/ethnicity and gender in occupational segregation. International Journal of Sociology, 40, 31–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mouw, T., & Kalleberg, A. L. (2010). Occupations and the structure of wage inequality in the United States, 1980s to 2000s. American Sociological Review, 75, 402–431.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Petersen, T., & Morgan, L. A. (1995). Separate and unequal: Occupation-establishment sex segregation and the gender wage gap. American Journal of Sociology, 101, 329–365.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Queneau, H. (2009). Trends in occupational segregation by race and ethnicity in the USA: Evidence from detailed data. Applied Economics Letters, 16, 1347–1350.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reardon, S. F., & Firebaugh, G. (2002). Measures of multigroup segregation. Sociological Methodology, 32, 33–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reskin, B., Hargens, L., & Hirsh, E. (2004). Picturing segregation: The structure of occupational segregation by sex, race, ethnicity, and Hispanicity. Unpublished manuscript, University of Washington, Seattle, WA.

  • Ruggles, S., Alexander, J. T., Genadek, K., Goeken, R., Schroeder, M. B., & Sobek. M. (2010). Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database]. Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Population Center.

  • Silber, J. (1992). Occupational segregation indices in the multidimensional case: A note. Economic Record, 68, 276–277.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Spriggs, W. E., & Williams, R. M. (1996). A logit decomposition analysis of occupational segregation: Results for the 1970s and 1980s. Review of Economics and Statistics, 78, 348–355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tomaskovic-Devey, D., & Stainback, K. (2007). Discrimination and desegregation: Equal opportunity progress in U.S. private sector workplaces since the civil rights act. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 609, 49–84.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tomaskovic-Devey, D., Zimmer, C., Stainback, K., Robinson, C., Taylor, T., & McTague, T. (2006). Documenting desegregation: Segregation in American workplaces by race, ethnicity, and sex, 1966–2003. American Sociological Review, 71, 565–588.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Watts, M. J. (1995). Trends in occupational segregation by race and gender in the U.S.A., 1983–92: A multidimensional approach. Review of Radical Political Economics, 27, 1–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Woo, H., Sakamoto, A., & Takei, I. (2012). Beyond the shadow of white privilege?: The socioeconomic attainments of second generation South Asian Americans. Sociology Mind, 2, 23–33.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Xie, Y., & Goyette, K. A. (2004) A demographic portrait of Asian Americans (PRB report). New York, NY, and Washington, DC: Russell Sage Foundation and Population Reference Bureau.

Download references

Acknowledgments

We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (ECO2013-46516-C4-2-R, ECO2010-21668-C03-03 and ECO2011-23460), Xunta de Galicia (CN2012/178), and FEDER. We also want to thank the anonymous referees for helpful comments.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Olga Alonso-Villar.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 1, 2, 3, and 4

Table 1 Local segregation of gender–race/ethnicity groups (Φ g1 ), 1940–2010
Table 2 Demographic weight of gender–race/ethnicity groups, 1940–2010
Table 3 Decomposition of the per capita earning gap ratio of each group (EGap × 100) in terms of segregation (Γ ×100) and within-occupation wage disparities (Δ × 100), 2008–2010
Table 4 Gains and losses of the gender–race/ethnicity groups (Γ × 100), 1940–2010

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

del Río, C., Alonso-Villar, O. The Evolution of Occupational Segregation in the United States, 1940–2010: Gains and Losses of Gender–Race/Ethnicity Groups. Demography 52, 967–988 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-015-0390-5

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-015-0390-5

Keywords

  • Occupational segregation
  • Local segregation
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Wages