IZA DP No. 8388: Who Cares – and Does It Matter? Measuring Wage Penalties for Caring Work
published in: Research in Labor Economics, 2015, 40, 213-275
Economists and sociologists have proposed arguments for why there can exist wage penalties for work involving helping and caring for others, penalties borne disproportionately by women. Evidence on wage penalties is neither abundant nor compelling. We examine wage differentials associated with caring jobs using multiple years of Current Population Survey (CPS) earnings files matched to O*NET job descriptors that provide continuous measures of 'assisting and caring' and 'concern' for others across all occupations. This approach differs from prior studies that assume occupations either do or do not require a high level of caring. Cross-section and longitudinal analyses are used to examine wage differences associated with the level of caring, conditioned on worker, location, and job attributes. Wage level estimates suggest substantive caring penalties, particularly among men. Longitudinal estimates based on wage changes among job switchers indicate smaller wage penalties, our preferred estimate being a 2 percent wage penalty resulting from a one standard deviation increase in our caring index. We find little difference in caring wage gaps across the earnings distribution. Measuring mean levels of caring across the U.S. labor market over nearly thirty years, we find a steady upward trend, but overall changes are small and there is no evidence of convergence between women and men.