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Glass ceiling or sticky floor? Quantile regression decomposition of the gender pay gap in China

Lin Xiu (Department of Management Studies, University of Minnesota at Duluth, Duluth, Minnesota, USA)
Morley Gunderson (Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Article publication date: 27 May 2014

3269

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of the paper is to analyse how the male-female pay gap in China varies across the pay distribution and to provide evidence on the factors that influence that gap.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors use the Recentered Influence Function modification of quantile regressions to estimate how the male-female pay gap varies across the pay distribution. The authors also decompose the pay gaps at different quantiles of the pay distribution into differences in endowments of wage determining characteristics and differences in the returns for the same characteristics. The analysis is based on data from the Life Histories and Social Change in Contemporary China survey.

Findings

The authors find evidence of a sticky floor (large pay gaps at the bottom of the pay distribution) and some limited and weaker evidence of a glass ceiling (large pay gaps at the top of the distribution). This pattern prevails based on the overall pay gap as well as on the adjusted or net gap that reflects differences in the pay that males and females receive when they have the same pay determining characteristics. The pattern largely reflects the coefficients or unexplained differences across the pay distribution. Factors influencing the pay gap and how they vary across the pay distribution are discussed. The variation highlights considerable heterogeneity in the Chinese labour market with respect to how pay is determined and different characteristics are rewarded, implying that the conventional Blinder-Oaxaca decompositions that focus only on the mean of the distribution can mask important differences across the full pay distribution.

Social implications

At the bottom of the pay distribution most of the lower pay of females reflects their lower returns to job tenure, experience and a greater negative effect of family responsibilities on females’ wages, and to a lesser extent their lower level of education, less likelihood of being CPP members and their concentration in lower paying occupations. At the top of the pay distribution most of their lower pay reflects their lower returns on education, job tenure and work experience, and to a lesser extent their lower levels of experience and lower likelihood of being in managerial and leadership positions.

Originality/value

The paper systematically examines the male-female pay gap and its determinants throughout the pay distribution in China, highlighting that the conventional Blinder-Oaxaca decompositions that focus only on the mean of the distribution can mask important differences across the full pay distribution and not capture the considerable heterogeneity in that labour market.

Keywords

Citation

Xiu, L. and Gunderson, M. (2014), "Glass ceiling or sticky floor? Quantile regression decomposition of the gender pay gap in China", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 35 No. 3, pp. 306-326. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJM-01-2012-0017

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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