Occupations And The Structure Of Wage Inequality In The United States, 1980s-2000s

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Executive Summary

Occupations have long been regarded as central to the stratification systems of industrial countries, but have played little role in empirical attempts to explain the well-documented increases in wage inequality that occurred in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. The authors address this deficiency by assessing occupation-level effects on wage inequality using data from the Current Population Survey for 1983-2008. They model the mean and variance of wages for each occupation, controlling for education and demographic factors at the individual level, in order to test three competing explanations for the increase in wage inequality: The growth of between-occupation polarization, changes in education and labor force composition, and "Residual" inequality unaccounted for by occupations and demographic characteristics.

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