Graduation Year

2016

Date of Submission

4-2016

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Economics

Reader 1

Manfred Keil

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© 2016 Kyle C. Johnson

Abstract

The persisting gap between male and female wages in the United States offers a seemingly unusual disconnect between what is observed in the data and what is suggested by labor economics theory. Many authors have used aggregate or case methods to attempt to explain this gap. One characteristic of the earnings gap which has rarely been discussed is the large variation in female earnings as a percentage of male earnings by state. Why would median female earnings be 65% of male earnings in Louisiana while being 87% of median male earnings in New York? In this paper, using yearly Census data, I first find that the wage gap varies widely by state even when controlled for traditional determinants of wages and the gender pay gap. Then, deriving new variables to represent this controlled variation, I further find evidence that several state-specific characteristics represented by cross-section data explain a large portion of the controlled variation in gender pay gap by state. I conclude that the variables representing the structure of state economies as well as key measures of ideology and gender-related attitudes by state are significant determinant factors in why we see so much geographic variation in the gender pay gap.

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