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Hierarchical Structure and Gender Dissimilarity in American Legal Labor Markets

October 2013

From Social Forces

Research on inequality in the legal profession underemphasizes the macro-level factors that structure legal work. This paper introduces two measures that characterize local legal labor markets. The index of gender dissimilarity is the proportion of women required to move into the private law firm sector from the public sector to create gender balance. The index of hierarchical market structure is defined by a concentration of elite law graduates, highly leveraged law firms, lucrative billings, and corporate clients. Women’s salaries increase more rapidly than men’s in these markets, yet men continue to out-earn women. Furthermore, HLM models indicate that in labor markets with greater gender dissimilarity, women’s wages are significantly depressed. We explain this in terms of mechanisms of opportunity hoarding and exploitation