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Assimilation, Choice, or Constraint? Testing Theories of Gender Differences in the Careers of Lawyers

Kathleen E. Hull and Robert L. Nelson
Social Forces
Vol. 79, No. 1 (Sep., 2000), pp. 229-264
Published by: Oxford University Press
DOI: 10.2307/2675570
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2675570
Page Count: 36
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Assimilation, Choice, or Constraint? Testing Theories of Gender Differences in the Careers of Lawyers
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Abstract

Using data on lawyers in Chicago, we test competing hypotheses derived from three broad theoretical models of gender differences in professional careers: assimilation, choice, and constraint. Men and women begin their careers in different practice contexts and the differences grow over time. The magnitude of these persistent differences argues against an assimilationist view. Some of the divergence in career paths appears attributable to individual choices and preferences, but these do not fully account for the observed gender differences. Human-capital endowments are significant predictors of career positions but also fail to explain the observed gender differences. Women's overrepresentation in less prestigious and less remunerative settings and their underrepresentation in law-firm partnerships suggest that constraints continue to affect women's professional career opportunities.

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