Thursday, February 01, 2007

Women and job prestige: I'm interested in two questions: which ethnic group has the most prestigious women, and how do they compare to their male counterparts? Using General Social Survey data on Americans of various ethnicities, I first list the mean occupational prestige and then the gap with males:

Mean prestige score for females (female - male in parentheses)

Chinese 51.68 (+1.15)
Jewish 48.89 (-3.94)
Russians 48.01 (-1.26)
Scots 47.37 (+.77)
Indians 47.23 (-10.60)
Danes 46.91 (-.73)
Swedes 46.13 (+.49)
English/Welsh 45.74 (-.89)
Norwegians 45.16 (-.53)
Filipinos 45.04 (+3.93)
Italians 44.61 (-.70)
Czechs 44.55 (-.76)
French 44.51 (+1.27)
Irish 44.10 (-1.09)
Poles 44.09 (-2.66)

All women 43.66 (-.48)

Germans 43.54 (-.58)
Spaniards 43.20 (-1.47)
Puerto Ricans 41.71 (+3.06)
Blacks 41.16 (+2.46)
French Canadians 40.80 (-1.67)
American Indians 40.80 (+.97)
Dutch 40.76 (-.86)
Mexicans 38.62 (-1.18)

Chinese women have the most prestigious jobs by far, and they even exceed Chinese men by 1.15 points. They and Indians are two non-white groups in the top five. The Russian number is elevated some since many Jews are from Russia. Northern and Eastern Europeans have the highest numbers for gentile whites. Four groups--two of them white--are lower than black women.

Women in eight of the 22 groups exceed the men, and males are only ahead a little bit in the overall numbers. The female advantage is large for Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, and blacks.

So, these numbers tells us that prestigious jobs in America are in no way reserved for men--in many cases, women have higher status positions. Nor do non-white women find that they cannot ascend to the highest ranks. Not only do Chinese women surpass all other women, but also the vast majority of men.


  1. The magnitude of the male-female difference in Indians is very interesting. Is the same magnitude seen for, say, individuals with Muslim religious belief?

  2. American Muslims always surprise me. Mean female prestige is 51.92, while the number for men is 42.17. Keep in mind that the sample is only 48.

  3. Jay Epstein4:29 PM

    The GSS data are inaccurate. Only 60% of whites score above the mean black and American Indian scores. Limiting it to non-Hispanic whites (i.e., whites who report a European country as their country of origin) doesn't change this much. And blacks make up something like 10% of professional and technical workers. My guess is that GSS sampling is tilted toward people of higher socioeconomic status. Its nonresponse rate, as measured by pe ople to refuse to do the survey, is, after all, over 30% (according to a statistics book that I used).

  4. Jay: The GSS is one of the most methodologically checked-out surveys out there. Many other surveys use it as a standard against which to assess their findings. Researchers have conducted dozens of methological studies, several on non-response bias. Non-response is 20-25%, lower than most surveys, but the issue is not non-response, but whether there is systematic bias in non-responses. The only SES source of bias I know of is that institutionalized or homeless people are left out of the sample. For blacks, this could make some difference.

  5. Anonymous9:51 AM

    I see ads in the sports section advertising businesses that have "sweet Chinese girls" and "pretty Asian staff" promising "best service." Would that be a prestige occupation?

  6. I suspect Jay Epstein lives in an urban area where almost all whites are well-off. There are lots of whites in non-prestigious jobs in areas where they are in the large majority such as the midwest and far northeast. Also in the Mississippi river valley and the Appalachians. I think this latter group is the "Fourth America" in a recent sociological survey.

    Another question: are there *any* female garbage collectors?


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