Swimming Upstream, Floating Downstream: Comparing Women's Relative Wage Progress in the United States and Denmark
Applying a new decomposition method to U.S. PSID and Danish Longitudinal Sample data, the authors compare how U.S. and Danish gender wage gaps developed between 1983 and 1995. In Denmark, they find, the wage gap widened, because the worsening in women’s relative returns to observable human capital attributes, as well as in their ranking relative to men in unobservable productive attributes, more than offset their wage gains from improved observable qualifications relative to men’s. In the United States, in contrast, the gender convergence in qualifications offset adverse influences, including increasing wage dispersion throughout the labor market, to result in a narrowing of the gap. The largest increase in the gap in Denmark was experienced by women in the top earnings decile, and the largest decline in the gap in the United States affected those at the top and in the middle of the distribution.