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Melanie Wasserman

Assistant Professor of Economics
“By pairing the quantitative tools of economics with rich labor market data, we are able to generate new insights into the market and non-market forces that guide career trajectories.”
Areas of Expertise:
  • Economics of Gender
  • Labor Economics


Melanie Wasserman is a labor economist whose research focuses on the mechanisms underlying gender differences in educational, occupational and labor market outcomes. As an assistant professor of economics in the Global Economics and Management area at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, she teaches the Managerial Economics MBA course.

“I was drawn to economics for its way of thinking,” she says, pointing to its theoretical and empirical tools to tackle a broad range of topics. “Studying people through an economic lens entails analysis of decisions that are not typically thought of as ‘economic’ but can wield substantial influence over individuals’ economic lives.”

Women’s entry into the labor force is one of the most noteworthy changes in the U.S. labor market over the last 40 years, and this drives the direction and scope of Wasserman’s research. “Recently, we have witnessed a slowdown in the convergence of male and female economic outcomes, leaving substantial disparities in occupational choice, progression within occupations and compensation. My research sheds light on the mechanisms driving these gaps by examining the role of two forces: 1) whether men and women respond differently to the same workplace institutions and policies; and 2) whether there is differential treatment of men and women in the labor market. Assessing the validity and contribution of these two factors is essential because of their divergent policy prescriptions.”

A key question in her most recent work is whether a job’s non-monetary attributes influence an individual’s choice of job or career. Guided by questions around the number and flexibility of work hours a job requires, frequency of travel and what kind of work environment appeals to potential employees, Wasserman delved into the occupational structure and workplace policies of physicians. “My research revealed that reducing a medical specialty’s time demands during residency encouraged individuals to enter the specialty — and women were much more responsive than men. This finding prompted me to examine whether men’s and women’s disparate responses are fueled by their differing preferences regarding the timing of family formation.”



Ph.D. Economics, MIT, 2016

B.A. Economics, UC Berkeley, 2007



“School Quality and the Gender Gap in Educational Achievement” (joint with David Autor, David Figlio, Krzysztof Karbownik and Jeffrey Roth) American Economic Review Papers & Proceedings, May 2016


Working Papers

“Hours Constraints, Occupational Choice and Fertility: Evidence from Medical Residents”

“Family Disadvantage and the Gender Gap in Behavioral and Educational Outcomes” (joint with David Autor, David Figlio, Krzysztof Karbownik and Jeffrey Roth)

“Gender Differences in Politician Persistence”


Washington Post : Poor boys are falling behind poor girls, and it’s deeply troubling New York Times : A Disadvantaged Start Hurts Boys More Than Girls Washington Post : The serious reason boys do worse than girls VoxEU : Quality schools can boost boys’ achievement New York Times : How Medicine Became the Stealth Family-Friendly Profession Politico : Why don’t more women run for office? University of Chicago BFI : Informed Choices: Gender Gaps in Career Advice The Economist : Demand, meet supply New York Times : Study of Men’s Falling Income Cites Single Parents

Women Consider Jobs Differently, and Employers Know It

Warren Olney navigates hours, work/life balance and pay with Melanie Wasserman.

Featuring: Melanie Wasserman, Assistant Professor of Economics