Rethinking the Two-Body Problem: The Segregation of Women Into Geographically Dispersed Occupations

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Empirical research on the family cites the tendency for couples to relocate for husbands’ careers as evidence against the gender neutrality of household economic decisions. For these studies, occupational segregation is a concern because occupations are not random by sex and mobility is not random by occupation. I find that the tendency for households to relocate for husbands’ careers is better explained by the segregation of women into geographically dispersed occupations rather than by the direct prioritization of men’s careers. Among never-married workers, women relocate for work less often than men, and the gender effect disappears after occupational segregation is accounted for. Although most two-earner families feature husbands in geographically clustered jobs involving frequent relocation for work, families are no less likely to relocate for work when it belongs to the wife. I conclude that future research in household mobility should treat occupational segregation occurring prior to marriage rather than gender bias within married couples as the primary explanation for the prioritization of husbands’ careers in household mobility decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1619-1639
Number of pages21
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 23 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Population Association of America.


  • Family
  • Household mobility
  • Occupational segregation


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