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The dependence of the gain and absorption in GaNAs/GaAs quantum well lasers on the valence-band offset is investigated. The calculated absorption strength, gain amplitudes, and gain bandwidth are found to depend crucially on the value of this offset. The shift of the peak gain transition energy with carrier density is shown to depend strongly on the magnitude of the offset, providing what should be a useful means to determine the offset experimentally. © 2000 American Institute of Physics.