Women’s employment researcher wins Nobel Prize in Economics

2023 10 09T170107Z 1260967967 RC2ZO3ABQDIX RTRMADP 3 NOBEL PRIZE ECONOMICS Large
Economic historian Claudia Goldin, a Harvard professor who won the 2023 Nobel economics prize for her work examining wage inequality between men and women, speaks at a news conference at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., October 9, 2023. REUTERS/Reba Saldanha

The Nobel Prize in Economics for this year has been granted to Claudia Goldin, an American economic historian, in recognition of her research on women’s employment and compensation.

Professor Goldin’s investigations have unveiled the fundamental factors contributing to the gender wage gap, as stated by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

She is only the third woman to be honoured with this prize and the first to receive it without sharing it with male colleagues.

At the age of 77, Professor Goldin currently teaches labour market history at Harvard University in the United States. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences highlighted that her work, which examines two centuries of data on the American workforce, has significantly improved our comprehension of women’s labour market outcomes, explaining how and why gender disparities in earnings and employment rates have evolved over time.

According to the prize committee, Claudia Goldin has provided the first comprehensive account of women’s earnings and labour market participation throughout history, and her research has showed both the causes of change and the primary sources of the remaining gender gap.

Goldin’s research has revealed that, historically, married women reduced their workforce participation after the advent of industrialization in the 1800s but experienced a resurgence in employment in the 1900s with the growth of the service sector. Factors such as increased educational opportunities for women and the availability of contraception accelerated these changes, yet the gender wage gap persisted.

While the earnings disparity between men and women in the past could be attributed to early educational and career choices, Professor Goldin found that the current earnings gap is primarily influenced by the impact of parenthood.

Globally, approximately 50% of women participate in the labour market, compared to 80% of men, and women typically earn less and are less likely to reach top positions in their careers.

In 1989, Professor Goldin became the first woman to receive tenure in Harvard’s economics department. She emphasized that economics still faces challenges in attracting women due to the misconception that it is primarily focused on finance and management. She suggested that if economics were framed as a field addressing issues of inequality, health, household behaviour, and society, it might attract a more balanced gender representation.

The Nobel Prize in Economics, unlike the original Nobel Prizes, was established in 1968 and is funded by Sweden’s central bank, the Sveriges Riksbank. Elinor Ostrom was the first woman to win the economics prize in 2009, which she shared with Oliver E. Williamson for research on economic governance. In 2019, Esther Duflo shared the award with her husband Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer for their work on poverty in India and Kenya.

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