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The Failure of Human Capital Theory to Explain Occupational Sex Segregation

Paula England
The Journal of Human Resources
Vol. 17, No. 3 (Summer, 1982), pp. 358-370
DOI: 10.2307/145585
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/145585
Page Count: 13
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The Failure of Human Capital Theory to Explain Occupational Sex Segregation
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Abstract

Predictions from Polachek's theory explaining occupational sex segregation are tested and found to be false. The NLS data do not show that women are penalized less for time spent out of the labor force if they choose predominantly female occupations than if they choose occupations more typical for males. Thus, there is no evidence that plans for intermittent employment make women's choice of traditionally female occupations economically rational. It is not surprising, then, that NLS women with more continuous employment histories are no more apt to be in predominantly male occupations than women who have been employed less continuously. I conclude that human capital theory has not generated an explanation of occupational sex segregation that fits the evidence.

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