The labour segregation by gender: An application of “Pollution Theory”

The labour segregation by gender: An application of “Pollution Theory”

  • Raquel Llorente Heras ,
  • Diego Dueñas Fernández ,
  • Carlos Iglesias Fernándezc – In memoriam ,


Pollution theory; Women; Wages; Sectors; Occupations; Segregation


Pollution Theory is currently one of most widespread explanations for labour segregation by gender. This theory establishes by Goldin (2002 and 2006), in general terms, establishes that in labour occupations with a high presence of women, there will be a wage reduction or/and penalization due to the decline in occupational prestige as a result of a process of “pollution” in the labour supply.

In this paper, we attempt to validate this theory in the Spanish labour market, which is a perfect case study. The strategy of validation requires an analysis of the average salary in different labour locations depending on the female presence. Our estimations are focused as closely as possible on Goldin’s original model about labour occupations. Nevertheless, we add new perspectives for analysis, including estimations by sectors, companies, and segregation locations. We also consider additional models as well as Goldin’s original estimation, including a great number of independent variables. Finally, we propose a dynamic estimation that could approximate the model proposed by Pollution Theory over time.

Our results led instead to a partial validity of Pollution Theory in Spain. Only the estimations from a sectoral perspective provide positive and significant results. According to our results, high levels of training or education acquired by women in Spain over the last decade could be the cause of the lack of salary reductions or wage penalties predicted by Pollution Theory. In addition, the high concentration of women in public employment limits the fulfilment of this theory.

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