Mary Ann Bronson
CV | Working Papers | Work in Progress

Assistant Professor, Economics
Georgetown University

Curriculum Vitae

Research Interests
Labor Economics, Applied Microeconomics


Working Papers

  • The Lifecycle Wage Growth of Men and Women: Explaining Gender Differences in Wage Trajectories (with Peter Skogman Thoursie) [PDF]
Why do women's wages grow more slowly than men's? Theory indicates that wages grow over the lifecycle as workers progress up an internal "career ladder," and as they switch firms and move up the "job ladder" to higher-paying firms. In this paper, we use employer-employee linked data from Sweden to decompose cumulative wage growth of men and women at each age into wage gains associated with (1) firm changes, (2) large discrete wage gains relative to one's co-workers -- which we call promotions -- and (3) interim (non-promotion) growth. While women switch firms at almost identical rates as men over the lifecycle, they have substantially lower promotion rates at all ages, even within narrow skill groups. Though relatively rare, promotions are the largest driver of wage growth by 45 for both men and women. Gender differences in promotion-related growth account for around 73 to 83% of the differences in lifecycle wage growth of college-educated men and women from ages 25 to 45. Differences in wage growth associated with firm changes account for 28%, while interim, non-promotion growth is slightly higher for women. Gender differences in sorting across firms with steeper vs. flatter wage structures explain only about 10% of differences in promotion probability. Lastly, we study hours worked and the evolution of the promotion gap with time to first birth. We use our findings to explain why childbirth penalties for women are so large, immediate and persistent; why gender wage differentials vary across professions; and what contributes to gender differences in estimated firm wage premiums. 

  • 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 (forthcoming)

  • 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 (forthcoming)

Work In Progress

  • Joint vs. Individual Taxation and Lifecycle Labor Supply (with Maurizio Mazzocco)
  • 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)