Document Type


Publication Date



Regional Research Institute

Document Number

Working Paper Number 2023-01


Regional Research Institute


Occupation segregation explains a significant portion of the gender wage gap, with women working in lower paid female-dominated occupations. We examine how childhood and adolescent exposure to gender biased norms about work influence this occupational sorting. We document that early life exposure to traditional gender role attitudes, which view women’s role as caretakers, increase women’s likelihood of employment in care occupations and decrease the likelihood for men, thereby increasing the gender care occupation gap. A decomposition of the factors affecting this sorting shows that a primary channel is through differences in the choice of post-secondary field of study or major. Our results suggest that traditional gender role attitudes may work to segment the labor market for men and women and contribute to the gender wage gap. This suggests that more egalitarian gender role attitudes which increase the share of men entering care occupations would increase wages for both men and women, lowering the gender wage gap.


JEL Codes: J24, J31, R23

Data Availability Statement: This paper uses confidential data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The data can be obtained through application to the BLS (The Geocode Application Document: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( The authors are willing to assist. Redacted statistical programs for replication are available in the Online Appendix.