We have been featuring a slew of articles related to the rise of the Indian woman and its impact on the Indian economy and society. Amidst this, it was heartening to see this year’s Nobel Prize for Economics being awarded to a woman (the first solo in the field) – Claudia Goldin. Even better, the award is for her work on the role of women in the labour force through history and the consequences there of.

“Claudia Goldin…documented the journey of American women from, in her words, holding jobs to pursuing careers — working not just to support themselves, but because work is a fundamental aspect of their identity and satisfaction.

She has described the changing roles of women in the last half-century as “among the grandest advances in society and the economy.” She has shown how they have outpaced men in education, poured into the labor force and found meaning in their work.”

Claudia’s work showed that women’s participation in the labour force went through a U-curve, initially falling as the American economy moved from being agrarian to industrial but eventually recovering with better education, scientific progress and more office jobs.

Indeed, she points specifically in her paper ‘Quiet revolution’ with 1970 as the inflection point:
“In a working paper published the day she won the Nobel this week, titled “Why Women Won,” Professor Goldin noted that the period between 1963 and 1973 was crucial. It included the passage of the Equal Pay Act, the Roe v. Wade decision and the admission of women to many Ivy League schools.

Women began marrying later, keeping their birth names and divorcing more often. The birth control pill, approved in 1960 and widely available for single women around 1970, allowed them to delay childbirth, and to obtain more education, Professor Goldin showed in a paper with Lawrence Katz, another Harvard labor economist (and her husband.)
Increasingly, women’s occupations began to “define one’s fundamental identity and societal worth,” she wrote.”

Her work also involves explaining the reasons for the gender pay gap:
“She has explained a driving force behind the gender inequity that remains in the American work force: Employers have begun paying disproportionately more for long, inflexible hours. Anyone who scales back for a time, or who is unavailable on weekends or evenings, is at a disadvantage.”

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