WASHINGTON — The big gap between the earnings of women and men can largely be blamed on the clustering of females in certain occupations and in their lack of work experience, a Census Bureau study suggested Thursday.
Overall, it said, women continue to earn only 70 cents for every dollar taken home by a man.
While the disparity remains great, it represents progress from the 62 cents on the dollar women were earning in 1979, said Gordon W. Green Jr., of the Census Bureau's socioeconomic statistics division.
In addition to job-clustering and less experience, other factors setting women workers apart from men include time taken off from work and differences in their fields of study in college.
"There is an important message here for the woman who is career-minded and wants to get ahead at work," Green said in an interview.
Traditional Men's Studies
It tells them that if they go to college, they should study fields men have traditionally studied--such as law, engineering, science and mathematics--and if they do not choose college, to try to develop technical training or enter the skilled trades, he said.
Green added that if family duties call them away from work, women should try to limit those interruptions so they will not let their skills become obsolete or lose seniority.
Nearly half of employed women--47%--have been off work for at least six months sometime in their work lives, compared with only 13% of men, the study found.
Family duties were the most common reason for women to interrupt work, while inability to find a job was the major reason for men.
Those work absences affect future wages, the report said.
The study, based on earnings in 1984, found that among full-time workers, average hourly pay was $10.82 for men and $7.52 for women, for a disparity of 70 cents on every dollar. But for people whose careers had been interrupted for six months or more, average hourly pay for both sexes was sharply less.
The report, based on a nationwide survey of 20,000 households, concluded that while women have been making headway in many male-dominated jobs in this decade, major workplace differences remain between the sexes.
"Working in an occupation that has a high proportion of women has a negative effect on earnings," the study said. "Among female college graduates, for example, a 1% increase in the proportion of women in an occupation reduces earnings by 0.42%."
It said clustering of women appears to be the largest factor for lower earnings among women without college degrees, accounting for 30% of the wage difference between the sexes. Lack of work experience was cited for between 14% and 22% of their lower pay.
The areas in which women tended to be clustered included secretaries, 99.2% in 1986; registered nurses, 94.6%; bookkeepers and accounting clerks, 88.1%; nursing aides, 85.1%; and cashiers, 77.7%.
There is controversy in social science circles over this grouping of women into certain jobs. Some contend it is a result of discrimination that channels females to certain occupations, while others claim that women often choose jobs that give them more flexibility to be near home and have time with their families.
For college graduates, being clustered in female-dominated jobs was blamed for 17% of their lower pay, while having less work experience than men was blamed for 23% of the difference.