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Employer-sponsored health insurance and the gender wage gap

Southern Economic Journal. December 1, 2018

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In the United States, female workers tend to have higher medical expenditures than male workers. Due to experience rated premiums, the cost of providing employer‐sponsored health insurance (ESI) therefore differs by gender. This article examines if that cost difference contributes to the gender wage gap. Identification comes from the exogenous variation provided by the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. Estimation uses a difference‐in‐difference framework with data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. Findings suggest the portion of the gender wage gap attributable to ESI is smaller than existing estimates in the literature and is statistically no different to zero once individual medical expenses are included as a control. In addition, the article’s empirical approach highlights that existing work on the role of ESI in the gender wage gap does not separately identify the effect of ESI from plausible alternatives.