The Scarring Effect of "Women's Work": The Determinants of Women's Attrition from Male-Dominated Occupations Articles uri icon

publication date

  • September 2014

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 29


  • 21


  • 93

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0037-7732

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1534-7605


  • Women's entry into formerly male-dominated occupations has increased in recent decades, yet a significant outflow remains. This study examines the determinants of women's exits from male-dominated occupations, focusing on the effect of previous occupational trajectories. In particular, it hypothesizes that occupational trajectories in female-dominated occupations are often imbued with meanings and beliefs about the (in) appropriateness of the worker, which adversely affect women's integration and chances when they enter the male sector. Using the NLSY79 data set, the study analyzes the job histories of women employed in the United States between 1979 and 2006. The results reveal a disproportionate risk of exit among newcomers from female-dominated occupations. Also, women who reenter the male field are more likely to leave it again. Altogether, the findings challenge explanations based on deficiencies in the information available to women at the moment of hiring. The evidence points to the existence of a "scar effect" of previous work in the female field, which hinders women's opportunities in the male sector and ends up increasing the likelihood of exit.


  • gender revolution; sex segregation; united-states; male-female; employment; jobs; mobility; managers; earnings; race