“If you look at the raw difference in pay between men and women, much of the sex-pay gap can be caused by the kinds of jobs women are entering. To the degree we care about this pay disparity, we should also be looking at the reasons why men and women are going into these different jobs.”


—Alan Benson

Researchers have long believed that dual-career couples are more likely to relocate in favor of the husband’s career, which stifles the wife’s earning power, and widens the disparity between men and women’s pay. But a new study by Assistant Professor Alan Benson suggests that all factors being equal, families are no less likely to relocate for the wife than they are for the husband’s career. 

Digging deeper into the data, he found the tendency for couples to relocate is driven by the types of jobs men and women enter. 

Benson analyzed U.S. Census data to determine how geographically constrained or ubiquitous a given occupation tends to be. For example, schoolteachers are more evenly dispersed across the country (ubiquitous), while petroleum engineers are concentrated into a few key cities (constrained).

“We found there’s a very strong relationship between the geographic concentration of the job and the percent of that job that are men and women. We also find that the degree to which the occupation is constrained is a very strong predictor of relocation. So people who are in these jobs that only exist in a few cities are very prone to relocate for work,” says Benson.

He observed the geographically constrained occupations were disproportionately held by men. Benson suspects societal pressures could be dissuading women from pursuing careers that might someday limit where they could live, and consequently whom they could marry.

“Typically before they know who their spouse is going to be, men are investing their time into jobs that are geographically concentrated, and expecting they should be able to move in the future,” says Benson. “Early in life, when women look out into the marriage market, there’s disproportionate pressure for them to choose an occupation that will be more geographically flexible.”

Watch Benson further describe his findings:

 

“Re-Thinking the Two-Body Problem: The Segregation of Women into Geographically-Dispersed Occupations” Benson, Alan, Demography (2014)