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Job Gendering: Occupational Choice and the Marriage Market


  • M. V. Lee Badgett,

  • Nancy Folbre

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      Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts. E-Mail: and Thanks to the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Families and the Economy for financial support of this project. We also thank Andy Anderson, Dale Ballou, Sam Bowles, Paula England, Naomi Gerstel, Laurie Morgan, Barbara Reskin, Pete Rossi, Doris Weichselbaumer, Cathy Weinberger, members of the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Seminar, and anonymous referees for their helpful comments and suggestions. Dee Weber, Catherine Haskins, Pamela Davidson, Emily Jongkind, and Aaron Harsh provided invaluable research assistance.


Existing theories of occupational segregation appeal to family-related responsibilities, employer discrimination, and socialization to explain why women and men occupy such different jobs. We suggest that occupational segregation is perpetuated because women (and men) may be penalized in the marriage market for making nontraditional occupational choices. As an empirical test, we asked students to rate personal ad-like vignettes. Holding all else equal, having a gender-nonconforming occupation reduced the attractiveness of both men and women.