- Women are economically disadvantaged in most U.S. labor markets, demonstrated by a persistent gender wage gap. The relative wage discrepancy can be understood as a result of labor market conditions, human capital investments, and gender discrimination. To determine if the wage gap could be decreased, I use classical regression modeling to examine how physically demanding occupations affect women’s and men’s earnings. I control for a range of variables indicating employee investments in human capital, demand-side characteristics including occupational physical demands, and factors representing cultural constraints and institutional bias. Using the Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement from March 2006 for Oregon and Washington combined with the Directory of Occupational Titles from the United States Department of Labor, I examine if individual earning power would be higher for workers in physically demanding occupations as compared to those in non-physically demanding occupations.
Results show that women in the Pacific Northwest are economically disadvantaged, even after controlling for theoretically based wage determinants. Some occupational physical demands do increase wage, such as climbing and strength within a goods-based occupation, however most of these demands are only relevant for male-dominated occupations. Women may earn more money if they infiltrate male-dominated occupations requiring physical demands. Effective local and state level government policies may be fostered to recruit and retain non-college educated women into physically demanding jobs. However, these solutions are temporary because once an occupation has more women employed, the wages are likely to decrease for all workers. While no easy solution exists, it is my hope that lessening the societal constructions which limit women’s occupational opportunities will not only lessen the gender wage gap, but work to address a systemic bias against women.