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Gender Composition and Wages: Why is Canada different from the United States?

By Michael Baker and Nicole M. Fortin

Abstract

The correlation of occupational gender composition and wages is the basis of pay equity/comparable worth legislation. A number of previous studies have examined this correlation in US data, identifying some of the determinants of low wages in ``female jobs'', as well as important limitations of public policy in this area. There is little evidence, however, from other jurisdictions. This omission is particularly disturbing in the case of Canada, which now has some of the most extensive pay equity legislation in the world. In this paper, we provide a comprehensive picture, circa the late 1980's, of the occupational gender segregation in Canada and its consequences for wages. We also draw explicit comparisons of our findings to evidence for the United States. We find that the link between female wages and gender composition is much stronger in the United States than in Canada, where it is generally small and not statistically significant. The relatively more advantageous position of women in female jobs in Canada is found to be linked to higher unionization rates and the industry-wage effects of ``public goods'' sectors.

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