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Cumulative Versus Continuous Disadvantage in an Unstructured Labor Market


This article uses longitudinal career history data for the period 1982 through 1990 to explore the mechanisms that produce a gender gap in earnings among writers in the television industry. Two models of labor market dynamics are compared. The first is a model of cumulative disadvantage whereby differential access to opportunity is increasingly consequential over the course of writers' careers. The second is a model of continuous disadvantage whereby the contributions of women writers are uniformly devalued across career stages. The results strongly support the model of continuous disadvantage and show that a narrowing of the wage gap is limited to very recent cohorts of writers. The article describes how unstructured labor market arrangements in the entertainment industry sustain the process of continuous disadvantage and discusses implications for labor market issues more generally.

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