Gender Earnings Differential in Urban China


  • The authors would like to acknowledge research grants from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Ford Foundation (Beijing), Michigan State University (Intramural Research Grants Program) and the University of Michigan (Rackham Faculty Research Grant). They are indebted to Guanghua Wan, Zhong Zhao, Zhicheng Liang, Xin Meng, Shi Li, Terry Secular, Bjorn Gustafsson, Xiaobo Zhang, John Giles, and anonymous referees for their valuable comments and suggestions. The authors, however, are responsible for any remaining errors in the study.

* Wang: Institute of Population and Labor Economics, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 5 Jianguomennei Dajie, Beijing, 100732, China. Tel: (8610) 85195416; Fax: (8610) 85195427; E-mail: Cai:


This study uses survey data collected from five large cities in China to describe and decompose the earnings difference between female and male workers. The results indicate that the main source of lower earnings for females lies in unequal pay within sectors, and that the earnings gap due to differences in sectoral attainment is relatively small. The results also reveal that most of the gender earnings differential is attributable to sex discrimination rather than to the gender difference in the endowment of human capital. Therefore, eliminating discrimination against females within individual sectors is effective in narrowing the gender earnings gap.