Article

January 2014

Job promotion in midcareer: gender, recession, and “crowding”

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The characteristics of the promoted

Table 2 presents promotion rates by ethnic and racial background, calculated over 2 years for each of the 1996, 2006, and 2010 rounds of the survey. Although women, as a whole, exhibited marginally higher promotion rates than did men, each series trends downward significantly. By the end of the period, however, all female groups other than those with Hispanic background had distinctly higher promotion rates than did male groups. Among men, Hispanics had the highest promotion rates in 2010, followed by nonblack, non-Hispanic, and, finally, black workers, whose promotion rates had fallen the fastest. Among women, all racial groups had the same promotion rates in 2010, much as was the case at the start of the period; however, rates in 2010 were half those in 1996. More important, the promotion gap between men and women, as well as between male and female racial groups, was the widest after 2006. In short, the Great Recession would appear to have impacted men more severely.

Table 2. Promotion rates, by gender and race, 1996–2010 (Percent promoted)
Gender and race characteristicYear|t|-statistics
1996200620101996 vs. 20062006 vs. 2010

Sample size (number)

5,6164,6034,233

All workers

19.613.18.37.516.27

Men

19.512.86.95.685.72

Hispanic

19.014.39.81.851.82

Black

19.511.05.44.303.32

Nonblack, non-Hispanic

19.512.96.94.704.97

Women

19.813.59.94.943.17

Hispanic

20.014.010.42.191.39

Black

18.411.310.13.720.68

Nonblack, non-Hispanic

20.013.99.83.952.93

Source: NLSY79 and authors' calculations.

Table 3 shows promotion rates by demographic and human capital characteristics of the workers, as well as characteristics of the job and the workplace (such as tenure, occupation, and firm size). Two basic observations stand out. First, at any given point in time, 31- to 35-year-old male and female workers had distinctly higher promotion rates than did their 36- to 39-year-old counterparts. Second, and related, as each cohort aged, promotion probabilities declined for both men and women. Table 3 shows that gender differences by cohort were statistically significant in 2010, whereas trend differences for each gender cohort were statistically significant throughout the study period.

Further, women who were never married were more likely to be promoted than were their male counterparts, although the difference was not statistically significant. Except for 1996, female promotion rates among divorced, widowed, or separated women were higher as well, significantly so in 2010. Moreover, 2010 is the only year in which women without children and married women in families with a spouse present recorded higher promotion rates than did men with corresponding demographic characteristics. For most of the period, women with grown children and women with preschool children had higher promotion rates than did their male counterparts.

Table 3. Promotion rates, by worker, job, and workplace characteristics, 1996–2010 (Percent promoted)
CharacteristicYear|t|-statistics
1996200620101996 vs. 20062006 vs. 2010
WomenMen|t|-statisticsWomenMen|t|-statisticsWomenMen|t|-statisticsWomenMenWomenMen

Sample size (number)

2,5483,0682,2392,3642,1252,108

Age

             

31 to 35 years in 1996

21.120.00.6315.614.50.6511.48.42.013.053.412.554.12

36 to 39 years in 1996

18.419.0.3111.311.0.208.35.22.313.924.601.984.03

Marital status

             

Never married

21.617.31.5510.69.5.408.16.3.703.63.90.901.27

Married with spouse present

19.820.7.4913.913.7.129.87.31.963.524.572.654.86

Other

18.417.7.2413.911.8.8710.65.72.631.882.241.572.89

Has no children

18.217.8.1712.211.8.2111.55.83.662.743.42.333.93

Has children

20.520.7.1314.213.5.508.87.8.774.004.583.864.03

Has children who were

             

5 years old or younger in 1996

18.822.11.3914.514.4.079.67.21.421.823.592.393.89

6 to 13 years old in 1996

21.118.7.9314.013.3.338.67.0.873.182.132.882.82

14 years old or older in 1996

23.318.6.799.38.6.1517.04.12.863.431.581.76.92

Occupation

             

Management, professional, technical, financial, sales, and public security

22.925.91.3617.216.6.3112.310.31.152.744.342.623.34

Administrative support and retail sales

19.920.4.1510.916.51.759.54.72.324.23.98.803.60

Low-skill service

18.718.4.0710.913.6.627.12.12.252.29.921.312.85

Precision production and craft

26.524.4.2316.78.51.196.97.2.05.923.491.23.35

Machine operators, assemblers, and inspectors

6.013.92.608.28.6.093.03.0.02.501.561.141.92

Transportation, construction, mechanics, mining, and agriculture

10.411.9.372.67.92.27.04.74.501.772.341.302.02

Education

             

Less than high school

17.715.7.5411.77.91.2712.55.22.101.513.14.191.24

High school graduate

21.215.02.8312.310.21.0310.57.21.703.822.62.831.75

Some college

21.420.3.4015.012.9.799.74.32.852.452.702.283.77

College graduate

17.526.33.3213.216.41.329.99.0.471.783.681.483.28

Postgraduate schooling

18.026.71.5519.218.9.066.95.9.33.231.433.152.99

Hours of work

             

Full time

20.119.6.4014.012.71.0210.36.93.324.605.783.035.62

Part time

16.112.9.528.318.21.124.96.7.411.97.531.051.24

Size of firm

             

Fewer than 100 employees

19.618.0.9513.810.91.799.76.02.793.314.792.563.83

100 to 499 employees

22.420.4.719.815.12.237.68.5.465.112.021.162.85

More than 500 employees

19.825.61.8217.515.6.6413.27.52.25.753.241.433.22

Tenure with employer

             

Less than 2 years

16.717.4.339.113.11.748.97.1.793.621.90.042.55

2 to 5 years

28.625.31.0620.116.81.0610.49.0.582.572.923.352.91

5 to 10 years

18.622.01.2916.112.11.5712.26.92.31.953.851.482.28

10 to 15 years

16.514.9.5012.310.9.459.35.01.861.251.37.982.31

More than 15 years

19.213.91.1710.011.2.548.36.21.162.39.88.792.60

Work experience before job with current employer

             

Less than 5 years

16.517.5.418.010.3.867.210.21.033.432.75.29.03

5 to 10 years

22.320.9.6210.910.9.029.14.31.934.683.93.702.69

10 to 15 years

21.121.0.0416.615.2.488.15.31.331.682.213.343.80

More than 15 years

16.416.2.0514.513.2.7711.27.03.04.601.241.974.44

Participated in training since last interview

27.730.3.8722.418.41.1815.114.2.261.653.722.261.20

Did not participate in training since last interview

17.016.4.4411.411.7.298.85.82.984.143.762.155.61

Note: Occupations are classified with the use of occupation codes provided in David Dorn, "Essays on inequality, spatial interaction, and the demand for skills" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of St. Gallen, September 2009).

Source: NLSY79 and authors' calculations.

Few notable occupation-specific differences can be observed outside the areas of transportation, construction, mechanics, mining, and agriculture, where male promotion rates consistently exceeded those of women over the sample period. In occupations such as machine operators, assemblers, and inspectors, in which men dominated women in promotions in 1996, male and female promotion rates had moved toward equality by 2010. However, in 2010, female promotion rates in two areas—(1) administrative support and retail sales and (2) low-skill services—clearly exceeded those of men.

With respect to educational characteristics, human capital theory predicts that more highly educated individuals will enjoy more opportunities for promotion. The data in table 3 generally confirm this prediction for men, even though the relation is not consistently monotonic. For women, the pattern is opaque. Moreover, although promotion rates for men in the upper educational echelons dominated the corresponding female rates in 1996, after that year female promotion rates were higher in most educational categories. Over the study period, but most noticeably between 1996 and 2006, there was some tendency for promotion rates to decline by educational category.

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About the Author

John T. Addison
ecceaddi@moore.sc.edu

John T. Addison is professor of economics at the University of South Carolina and professor of economics at Durham University, U.K.

Orgul Demet Ozturk
odozturk@moore.sc.edu

Orgul Demet Ozturk is assistant professor of economics at the University of South Carolina.

Si Wang
si.wang@moore.sc.edu

Si Wang recently completed her Ph.D. degree in economics at the University of South Carolina.