ECON 138 University of California San Diego Gender Pay Gap Questions


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Econ 138 Writing Assignment 1: DUE October 9 by 6:30 PM PDT on Canvas.
Please read all instructions both before you begin the assignment and after you complete it.
In this writing assignment, you will critically analyze a CNBC article from October 2019 about
college major choice. Please explain your answers thoroughly and watch the previous weeks’
lectures before writing your essay!
1. Read the article, “Women are slowly pursuing more high-paying degrees, but the pay gap
remains, says new research.” How have gender differences in college major choices
changed? Has this change occurred quickly or slowly? How about occupational choice?
Why does this matter for the gender wage gap? Cite facts from the article to support your
2. Suppose you want to execute an Oaxaca decomposition of the gender pay gap. What
observable variables would you ideally control for in the “explained” portion of the
decomposition? What factors would be left in the “unexplained” portion? Justify your
answers. Citing evidence from the article, do you think a wage gap would exist if you
executed this Oaxaca decomposition?
3. Define taste-based discrimination. Suppose that an occupational field like finance
exhibits taste-based discrimination against women. According to the Becker model, if
more women studied finance and entered that field, but discrimination stayed the same,
would we expect the gender wage gap to increase or decrease? Justify your answer.
4. In certain fields, like economics or computer science, the gender gap in college major
choice has not improved.1 Why might these gender gaps persist? Provide two potential
explanations. At least one reason must be from the article, but feel free to draw from your
own experience for your second explanation.
Format: You have 600 words to say everything you want to say. You need at least one short
paragraph per step.
Write freely and then revise to express your ideas clearly and concisely. You do not need to write
an introduction or conclusion. You do not need to restate the questions asked. Focus on the
economics; you will not be judged on the quality of your writing (so long as it is readable), but
rather the quality of the economic thought behind them. You can write in the first person, using
“I” statements.
To make it easier to read, use Times New Roman 12-point font with double-spaced lines. You
must submit either a .doc or .pdf file.
The percent of women majors in computer science can be seen here: Evidence on Economics
can be seen here:
Grading: The graders will follow the below rubric. There is no partial credit within any of the
subsections unless otherwise stated. Late submissions will receive up to a 20 point (50%
penalty). I will take off 2 points for each violation of the formatting guidelines (submission
format, double-spaced).
Step 1 [5 pts]
1 pt: Changes in college major choice
1 pt: pace of change
1 pts: Occupational choice
2 pts: Importance for gender wage gap
Step 2 [13 pts]
4 pts: “explained” variables
4 pts: “unexplained” factors
5 pts: would wage gap exist (1pt for answer, 2 pts for
explanation, 2 pts for citing evidence)
Step 3 [10 pts]
4 pts: define taste-based discrimination
3 pts: if more women enter field (direction)
3 pts: if more women enter field (justification)
Step 4 [8 pts]
4 pts: correctly cite a reason from the article
4 pts: correctly cite a reason from the article or your own
Legibility points [4 pts]
2 pts: Stay within word count (500-700 words)
2 pts: Legibility points (double spaced, submitted as a .doc or
.pdf, etc.)
Academic Integrity: You are not permitted to discuss this writing assignment with anyone:
other students, private tutors, friends, family, etc. You are permitted to use other written sources,
but you need to cite them in the format of your choice (and you are discouraged against doing so;
these questions are not easily searched, and you will likely end up plagiarizing). Your writing
assignment will be automatically submitted to Turnitin when you submit it on Canvas. Anyone
whose essay is similar to any written source or the essay of another student will receive a zero
grade and be reported for an Academic Integrity violation.
Late Assignments: The assignment closes at 6:30pm on Canvas. An assignment submitted late,
even if it’s only one minute late, will receive a late penalty. Late penalties are up to the grader’s
discretion, and will be worth up to 20 points (50% of your grade).
Regrading Policy: The graders will leave comments on your essay explaining where and why
you lost points. If you believe you lost points in error, you can submit a regrade request to the
current instructor (for assignment 1, email Prof. Bharadwaj at until
October 20. In this request you need to state which step you think you deserve more points on
and why. By submitting a request, you agree to wager half of the lost points, such that if the
grader denies your request she will take those points off your essay. For example, if you lost 4
points on Step 3, and submit a regrade request that is rejected, you will lose an additional 2
points on your essay. Given this penalty, you should only submit requests for grades that you are
confident were made in error. We will not tell you via email whether you should submit a
Good luck!
Women are pursuing more high-paying degrees, but the pay gap remains
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Women are slowly pursuing more
high-paying degrees, but the pay
gap remains, says new research
P ubl ish ed Fri, Oct 4 2019• 12?41 P M E DT
• Updated Fri, O ct 4 2 01 9• 1 2 ? 41 PM EDT
Abigail Johnson Hess

Commencement at Barnard College Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
Economists estimate that the gender pay gap — the gap
between the median salaries of all working men and women in
the U.S. — is about 80 cents earned by women for every dollar
earned by a man. When CNBC Make It spoke with economists
about the causes behind the pay gap, several pointed to
Today, women outnumber men at all levels of education, but
many pursue degrees in traditionally lower-paying fields.
Trending Now
But according to new research from Carolyn Sloane, an
Page 1 of 5
Women are pursuing more high-paying degrees, but the pay gap remains
assistant professor at the University of California, Riverside, and
Erik Hurst and Dan Black, professors at the University of
Chicago, women are slowly shifting to higher-paying majors.
“College major choice has strong predictive power in explaining
gender wage gaps, independent of occupation choice,” they
By analyzing data from the U.S. census, the researchers found
that women born in the 1950s chose majors with potential
wages that were 12.5% lower than their male peers. But women
born in the 1990s, who are the most recent generation to
graduate, chose majors with potential wages that were 9.5%
lower, indicating a slow but significant shift.
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Commencement at Wellesley College REUTERS/Brian Snyder
That said, after college, women also tend to enter lower-paying
fields, even when they have similar educational backgrounds to
For instance, women with MBAs take home 74 cents for every
dollar earned by men with MBAs. Economists suggest one
reason for the gap is that women with MBAs are more likely to
pursue careers in fields like marketing and advertising
compared to men, while men are more likely to pursue careers
in higher-paying industries like financial services.
However, Sloane, Hurst and Black found evidence that
occupational divergence after college is also narrowing.
For instance, women in the 1950s with engineering degrees held
jobs with potential wages that were 14% lower than men with
engineering degrees, but women who were born in the 1990s
who majored in engineering “ended up working in occupations
with roughly the same potential wages as men who majored in
Page 2 of 5
Women are pursuing more high-paying degrees, but the pay gap remains
10/5/21, 3:12 PM
Michael Horn: How to tell if your degree is worth the
According to Nicole Smith, research professor and chief
economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education
and the Workforce, the lower-paying fields that women pursue
in college and in their careers do account for some of the pay
gap, but not all of it.
“We still have women making personal decisions to pursue
degrees that pay less,” Smith told CNBC Make It, listing caregiving fields such as teaching and nursing as examples of lowerpaying degrees — and then occupations — that women pursue
disproportionately. “We still have occupational segregation,
which yes, it is a personal decision, but it’s also driven by
socioeconomic challenges, and it is also driven by expectations
about what roles women should play in society.”
“Occupational segregation” is just one factor that contributes to
the current pay gap, said Smith. When Georgetown’s CEW
looked at salaries among individuals in the same industries with
the same jobs and the exact same level of education, men still
earned more. When controlled for factors such as these, Smith
and her team found that women still earn about 92 cents for
every dollar a man makes.
The concept of occupational segregation also raises the issue of
choice. Are more women slowly choosing to pursue high-paying
degrees and careers, or are academic institutions and
employers slowly welcoming more women?
“I would say sometimes it’s a choice and sometimes it’s not,”
Lydia Frank, PayScale vice president of content strategy, told
CNBC Make It of the trend of women pursuing lower-paying
careers. “Sometimes that’s just where they’re getting hired, even
if they have been attempting to be hired elsewhere.”
Page 3 of 5
Women are pursuing more high-paying degrees, but the pay gap remains
10/5/21, 3:12 PM
if they have been attempting to be hired elsewhere.”
Anthony P. Carnevale, director of Georgetown’s CEW, said that
ultimately, the reason highly-educated women experience
significant wage gaps is discrimination.
“Women’s earnings still lag their exceptional educational
progress,” he said in a statement. “At the heart of the gender
wage gap is discrimination in pay for the same sets of
qualifications and experience.”
Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!
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Women are pursuing more high-paying degrees, but the pay gap remains
10/5/21, 3:12 PM
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Explanation & Answer:
600 words


gender differences

gender gap

gender pay gap

Oaxaca decomposition

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