Book Chapter Gender Convergence in the Labor Market
The right tail and the right tale: the gender wage gap in Mexico
We analyze the evolution of the gender wage gap in Mexico between 1989 and 2012, a period in which skill-biased technological change accelerated. We deviate from most prior work investigating the gap across the wage distribution. We find substantial gender wage convergence in the decade of the 2000s at the mean and, more markedly, at the upper and lower ends of the wage distribution, alongside little change in the median wage gap. The gender wage gap at the 90th percentile was largely eliminated by the year 2012 and, at the 10th percentile, it narrowed by a fourth of its 1990 level. This narrowing of gender inequality in wages occurred alongside a narrowing of inequality in wages within each gender group. The share of college-educated women relative to men in the work force grew substantially over the two decades, and they sorted disproportionately into brain-intensive occupations, where the gender wage gap fell sharply. The wage return to being in a brain-intensive occupation was, in both periods, greater for women; it declined for men while rising for women during the 2000s. Our findings demonstrate how structural economic change may interact with a biologically premised comparative advantage of women in brain-intensive occupations to raise their relative wages. Our results also underline the relevance of studying changes across the wage distribution.
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