The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Inequality Between the Sexes

  • E. Boserup
Reference work entry


Economic theory concerning inequality between the sexes focuses upon inequality in wages, job recruitment, promotion and dismissal, for women and men with similar qualifications and availability. Neoclassical theory explains these inequalities as a result of free and rational choice, based upon the biological differences between the sexes. According to Becker (1981), women’s role in reproduction makes it rational for women to specialize more in family skills, and men more in labour market skills, and parents make a rational choice for their children by preparing them for different careers. When women’s reproductive role is reduced due to the decline of birth rates, women’s availability for the labour market increases, and they begin to invest more in labour market skills than is the case in countries with continued high fertility. So sex-related differences in level and types of human investment and availability provide the explanation for the differences in wages, types of work and promotion.

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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • E. Boserup
    • 1
  1. 1.