Discussion paper

DP14737 Sexual Harassment and Gender Inequality in the Labor Market

This paper offers a comprehensive empirical analysis of sexual harassment in the Swedish labor market. First, we use nationally representative survey data linked with employer-employee data to describe rates of self-reported sexual harassment across occupations and workplaces. The risk of sexual harassment is clearly imbalanced across the sex segregated labor market. In gender-mixed and male-dominated occupations and workplaces, women have a higher risk than men, and men have a higher risk than women in female-dominated contexts. We use a hypothetical job-choice experiment with vignettes for sexual harassment to measure the disutility of sexual harassment risks. Both men and women have an equally high willingness to pay for avoiding workplaces where sexual harassment has occurred. But the willingness to pay is conditional on the sex of the fictional harassment victim. People reject workplaces where the victim is the same sex as themselves, but not where the victim is of the opposite sex. We return to the administrative data to study employer compensation for the disutility of sexual harassment risks. Within workplaces, a high risk is associated with lower, not higher wages. People who self-report sexual harassment also have higher job dissatisfaction, more quit intentions, and more actual quits. Both these patterns indicate a lack of full compensation. We conclude that sexual harassment should be conceptualized as gender discrimination in workplace amenities, and that this discrimination reinforces sex segregation and pay-inequalities in the labor market.


Rickne, J and O Folke (2020), ‘DP14737 Sexual Harassment and Gender Inequality in the Labor Market‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 14737. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp14737