December 1999, Vol. 122, No. 12
Labor month in review
Real wages rise for sixth year
1999 Shiskin Award
The December Review
In 1888, the first Commissioner of what was to become the Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a report entitled Working Women in Large Cities. In that report, Commissioner Wright observed, "A generation ago women were allowed to enter but few occupations. Now there are hundreds of vocations in which they can find employment. . . .By the progress or change in industrial conditions, the limit to the employment of women has been removed or at least greatly extended, and their opportunities for earning wages correspondingly increased and the wages themselves greatly enhanced. . . ." He also noted that women often worked for lower wages than did men.
This issue of the Review continues the Bureauís research and publication programsí interest in women in the labor force. Some of the issues are similar to those in Commissioner Wrightís day: participation, earnings, and the role of family. Some are, perhaps, more contemporary: gender and promotion and the impact of international competition on womenís labor market outcomes. In any case, the topic remains a rich one for labor economics and empirical research.
Howard N Fullerton, Jr., leads off with a long-term analysis of labor force participation rates. From 1950 through 1998, the overall participation rate for women increased by 14.2 percentage points, while the rate for men declined by 3.6 points. Still, at the end of the period, menís participation rates exceeded womenís both in the aggregate and in all age groups. Fullertonís projections of labor force participation through 2025 also show a pattern of declining, but still significant, differentials.
Mary Bowler recaps the most recent findings from the Current Population Survey on womenís earnings. Much like the pattern of participation, womenís inflation-adjusted earnings have increased over the past two decades, while menís have edged down. While womenís earnings have thus improved relative to menís, full-time working women as an aggregate earned about 76 percent of what men earned in 1998, compared with 63 percent in 1979.
Philip N. Cohen and Suzanne M. Bianchi study the implications of marriage and family to labor market decisions. They find that marriage itself has little impact on the labor supply of women and that children exert less downward pressure on supply than was the case in the late 1970s. The effect of having pre-school age children on annual work hours is still substantial, however.
Deborah A. Cobb-Clark and Yvonne Dunlop examine gender and promotions. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the Current Population Survey, they find that while there is evidence of a gender gap in promotions in the early years of careers, it seems to shrink over time. In 1990, men were more likely to report having been promoted sometime in the two previous years; while in 1996, women in the same sample cohorts had a slightly higher promotion rate than men.
Sandra E. Black investigates the impact of increasing competition, perhaps as a result of international trade or of deregulation, on statistical measures of discrimination. The empirical results she examines are consistent with the economic theory that suggests that competition reduces employersí ability to discriminate.
Real wages rise for sixth year
Last year, wages and salaries adjusted for inflation increased by 2.2 percent in private industry. The 1998 increase marked the sixth year in a row that inflation-adjusted wages and salaries rose.
Since its inception in the mid-1970s, the Employment Cost Index (ECI) for wages and salaries in private industry adjusted for inflation has increased in 14 years and has fallen in 9. The largest increase in the constant-dollar ECI for wages and salaries occurred in 1982, when it rose by 2.4 percent. The steepest decline took place in 1979, when the constant-dollar ECI for wages and salaries fell by 4.1 percent.
The Employment Cost Index is a fixed-employment-weighted index that tracks quarterly changes in labor costs, free from the influence of employment shifts among occupations and industries. The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) is used to adjust the ECI for inflation. Find out more in Employment Cost Indexes, 1975Ė98, BLS Bulletin 2514.
1999 Shiskin Award
Robert P. Parker is the recipient of the 1999 Julius Shiskin Award for Economic Statistics. The Award Committee cited Mr. Parkerís decades of leadership in improving income and product accounting both in the United States and in other major industrialized nations. As a result of his influence, the U.S. economic accounts data are better suited for the management and interpretation of the economy and other nations have been led to improving the accuracy, timeliness, and relevance of their national income, product, and wealth accounts.
The Julius Shiskin Award for Economic Statistics was established in 1979 to recognize important contributions in the development of economic statistics or in the use of economic statistics to interpret the economy. The award, co-sponsored by the Washington Statistical Society and the National Association for Business Economics, is named for the late Commissioner of Labor Statistics Julius Shiskin
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