Blau and Kahn (JOLE, 1997; ILRR, 2006) decomposed trends in the U.S. gender earnings gap into observable and unobservable components using the PSID. They found that the unobservable part contributed significantly not only to the rapidly shrinking earnings gap in the 1980s, but also to the slowing-down of the convergence in the 1990s. In this paper, we extend their framework to consider measurement error due to the use of proxy/representative respondents. First, we document a strong trend of changing gender composition of household-representative respondents toward more females. Second, we estimate the impact of the changing gender composition on Blau and Kahn’s decomposition. We find that a non-ignorable portion of changes in the gender gap could be attributed to changes in the self/proxy respondent composition. Specifically, the actual reduction in the gender gap can be smaller than what the estimates without taking into account the measurement error might suggest. We conclude that a careful validation study would be necessary to ascertain the magnitude of the spurious measurement error effects.
Does it matter who responded to the survey? Trends in the U.S. gender earnings gap revisited
11 February 2011
Working Paper (CWP05/11)