In the seventeenth-century Florentine textile industry, women were employed primarily in low-paying, low-skill jobs. To explain this segregation of labor by gender, economists have relied on the useful theory of human capital . According to this theory, investment in human capital—the acquisition of difficult job-related skills—generally benefits individuals by making them eligible to engage in well-paid occupations. Women’s role as child bearers, however, results in interruptions in their participation in the job market men’s) and thus reduces their opportunities to acquire training for highly skilled work. In addition, the human capital theory explains why there was a high concentration of women workers in certain low-skill jobs, such as weaving, but not in others, such as combing or carding, by positing that because of their primary responsibility in child rearing women took occupations that could be carried out in the home.
There were, however, differences in pay scales that cannot be explained by the human capital theory. For example, male construction workers were paid significantly higher wage than female taffeta weavers. The wage difference between these two low-skill occupations stems from the segregation of labor by gender: because a limited number of occupations were open to women, there was a large supply of workers in their fields, and this “overcrowding” resulted in women receiving lower wages and men receiving higher wages.
Question: The passage suggests that combing and carding differ from weaving in that combing and carding are
- low-skill jobs performed by primarily by women employees
- low-skill jobs that were not performed in the home
- low-skill jobs performed by both male and female employees
- high-skill jobs performed outside the home
- high-skill jobs performed by both male and female employees
Question: Which of the following, if true, would most weaken the explanation provided by the human capital theory for women’s concentration in certain occupations in seventeenth-century Florence?
- Women were unlikely to work outside the home even in occupations whose house were flexible enough to allow women to accommodate domestic tasks as well as paid labor.
- Parents were less likely to teach occupational skills to their daughters than they were to their sons.
- Women’s participation in the Florentine paid labor force grew steadily throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
- The vast majority of female weavers in the Florentine wool industry had children.
- Few women worked as weavers in the Florentine silk industry, which was devoted to making cloths that required a high degree of skill to produce.
Question: The author of the passage would be most likely to describe the explanation provided by the human capital theory for the high concentration of women in certain occupations in the seventeenth-century Florence textile industry as
- well founded though incomplete
- difficult to articulate
- plausible but poorly substantiated
- seriously flawed
- contrary to recent research
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