The Effect of the 1963 Equal Pay Act on the Gender Gap

The 1963 Equal Pay Act mandated equal pay for equal work for individuals covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Drawing on an empirical strategy used in the minimum wage literature, we exploit variation in the “bite” of the Equal Pay Act due to the pre-existing gender gaps in pay in the same occupation, industry, and Census division. Consistent with the Equal Pay Act binding, the results show that women’s wages increased more sharply in more affected jobs after implementation. However, women in jobs more affected by the Equal Pay Act also experienced larger employment and hours reductions in its aftermath. The reshuffling of women from higher wage (and higher gender gap) jobs to lower paying (and lower gender gap) jobs offset women’s aggregate wage gains entirely for full-time, attached workers. While increasing pay equity, the Equal Pay Act slowed the integration of women into historically male and higher paying jobs resulting in stagnation in the gender gap during the 1960s and early 1970s.