Occupational Desegregation Declines! STEM, STEM, STEM.

The National Bureau of Economic Research just published a working paper titled “Trends In Occupational Segregation by Gender, 1970-2009.” Here are some key takeaways:

Since about 1970, more and more women have been moving into previously male-dominated jobs. This — not so surprising. What is surprising, for me at least, is the fact that the rate of gender desegregation has slowed. Between 1970 and around 1990, women were moving into historically mens’ jobs at a pretty fast clip. But from 1990 on, things have slowed down. Don’t get me wrong — the workforce is still integrating. It’s just not integrating as quickly as it was two decades ago.

“It is difficult to predict whether or when a more robust decrease in segregation will resume,” the authors write. For that to happen, they say, women would need to move into fields that haven’t yet been integrated — like blue-collar jobs, and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Alternatively, men could move into predominantly female occupations, but the writers consider this less likely, as female-dominated occupations generally pay less. Although the recession seems to have increased gender desegregation some, it does not appear to be significant in the long run.

The authors’ conclusion is this:

“With respect to the STEM fields, enhancing the performance of girls and young women in mathematics is a reasonable target of policy. How to do so remains an active area of inquiry, but it is encouraging that, although a gender gap in math scores on high school math achievement tests and the SATs remains, it has declined as the high school course work of young men and women has grown more similar.”

So the answer, most likely, lies in education. If you want your daughter to be an engineer, by golly get her into math and science.


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