Mary Ann Bronson
CV | Working Papers | Work in Progress

Assistant Professor, Economics
Georgetown University

Curriculum Vitae

Research Area
Labor Economics, Applied Microeconomics


Working Papers

  • The Wage Growth and Within-Firm Mobility of Men and Women: New Evidence and Theory (with Peter Skogman Thoursie) [PDF]
Why do women's wages grow more slowly than men's? Using Swedish administrative data, we answer this question in three steps. First, we analyze men's and women's real annual wage growth non-parametrically. We show that men's and women's wage growth distributions differ principally in one aspect: women are less likely than men to experience persistent within-firm wage shocks in the right tail of the wage growth distribution. These shocks move workers up their firm's wage hierarchy, resemble internal promotions, and play a primary role in driving the gender differences in wage growth. Based on this evidence, in the second step we analyze men's and women's within-firm mobility. Using a novel wage-based measure of within-firm mobility, we estimate that gender differences in the probability of experiencing large internal promotions account for around 70% of the total gender gap in wage growth by age 45. We quantify the contribution of differences in human capital characteristics and occupation, sorting across firms, and hours worked and childbirth to the observed promotion gap. Alongside substantial motherhood penalties, we also document sizable dynamic gender penalties in promotion that are largest early in the lifecycle, reverse after age 40, and are observed both for women who eventually have children and those who remain childless. Lastly, we develop a model of promotion dynamics based on Gibbons and Waldman (1999) to interpret our findings. We conclude that the key empirical facts about promotion and wage growth are not readily explained by behavioral channels, such as gender differences in competitiveness or propensity to negotiate, but are consistent with costs to firms associated with employee leave-taking associated with childbirth, and employer uncertainty about women's future childbearing and labor supply reductions.
  • Taxation of Households: An Intertemporal Analysis (with Maurizio Mazzocco) [PDF]
We evaluate the effect of different taxation systems on choices and welfare. We start by providing descriptive evidence that distinct taxation systems create different incentives for primary and secondary earners and that these incentives affect important outcomes. We then develop and estimate using U.S. data a model in which single and married individuals make decisions on labor supply, household production, human capital accumulation, consumption, savings, marriage, and divorce. Lastly, we use the model to evaluate three tax policies that have been frequently debated: a shift from a joint to an individual taxation system; the introduction of a secondary earner deduction in a joint taxation system; and the addition of child care subsidies to a joint and to an individual taxation system. We find that all three policies have substantive effects on people's choices and welfare, with secondary earners affected the most. Their labor force participation and labor supply increases at the expenses of lower hours devoted to household production; they accumulate more human capital; their intra-household decisions power increases; and they enjoy higher levels of welfare.

  • Degrees are Forever: Marriage, Educational Investment, and Lifecycle Labor Decisions of Men and Women [PDF]
Women attend college today at much higher rates than men. They also select disproportionately into low-paying majors, with almost no gender convergence along this margin since the mid-1980s. In this paper, I explain the dynamics in the gender differences in college attendance and choice of major from 1960 to 2010. I document first that changes in returns to skill over time and gender differences in wage premiums across majors cannot explain the observed gender gaps in educational choices. I then provide reduced-form evidence that two factors help explain the observed gender gaps: first, degrees provide insurance against very low income for women, especially in case of divorce; second, majors differ substantially in the degree of "work-family flexibility" they offer, such as the size of wage penalties for temporary reductions in labor supply. Based on the reduced-form evidence, I construct and estimate a dynamic structural model of marriage, educational choices, and lifetime labor supply. I use the model to quantify the relative importance of changes in wages and changes in the marriage market over time for the observed educational investment patterns. Finally, I test the effects of two sets of policies on men's and women's choice of major: a differential tuition policy that charges less for science and technical majors, as has been proposed in some states; and interventions intended to improve work-family flexibility. My results show that the effects of family-friendly policies differ significantly depending on the program. Some policies, like part-time work entitlements, increase the share of women in science and business majors, while others, like paid maternity leave, further widen both college gender gaps. 

  • Cohort Size and the Marriage Market: Explaining a Century of Changes in U.S. Marriage Rates (with Maurizio Mazzocco) [PDF]
Marriage rates have important implications for many economic outcomes. Yet only a limited share of the variation in marriage formation over time and across geographies has been explained thus far. In this paper, we provide an explanation for changes in U.S. marriage rates that holds empirically over nearly a century. We document that a single variable, changes in cohort size, explains around 50% of the variation in marriage rates since the 1930s. Whenever the size of cohorts increases for consecutive years, the share of individuals marrying from those cohorts decreases. Whenever cohort size decreases, marriage rates of those cohorts in turn increase. This relationship holds systematically both over time and across states. Using plausibly exogenous variation across states in access to oral contraceptives, and consequently the number of births, we provide evidence that the relationship between changes in cohort size and changes in marriage rates is causal.

  • Cohort Size and the Marriage Market: What Explains the Negative Relationship? (with Maurizio Mazzocco) [PDF]
Bronson and Mazzocco (2017) document a strong and negative relationship between changes in cohort size and changes in marriage rates for both women and men. This empirical pattern is puzzling if interpreted using insights derived from the previous literature and a two-sided matching model a la Becker, which predicts that an increase in cohort size should reduce the marriage rate of women, but increase the marriage rate of men. In this paper, we investigate the mechanisms behind the negative relationship using a standard dynamic search model of the marriage market. We first show that the model we consider is rejected by the data for the same reason the Becker-style matching model is rejected: it predicts that a rise in cohort size should reduce the marriage rate of women, but increase the marriage rate of men. We then develop two variations of the search model and show that they are both able to generate the observed relationship between cohort size and marriage rates. Lastly, we derive a testable implication for the two models based on the relationship between cohort size and divorce rates and provide evidence that only one model is not rejected by the data.

  • A More Measured Approach: An Evaluation of Different Measures of Marriage Rates and Implications for Family Economics (with Maurizio Mazzocco) [PDF], Journal of Demographic Economics (June 2018)

  • The Career Dynamics of High-Skilled Women and Men: Evidence from Sweden (with Jim Albrecht, Susan Vroman, and Peter Skogman Thoursie) [PDF]European Economic Review (June 2018)

Work In Progress

  • Optimal Parental Leave Policy Design (with Deniz Sanin)
  • Work-Family Flexibility Policies in a General Equilibrium Model (with Jim Albrecht, Susan Vroman and Peter Skogman Thoursie)
  • Wage Growth Within and Across Firms (with Dan Cao)