Claudia Goldin Wins Nobel in Economics for Studying Women in the Work Force

The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded on Monday to Claudia Goldin, a Harvard professor, for advancing the world’s understanding of women’s progress in the work force.

Dr. Goldin is the third woman to have won the economics Nobel, which was first awarded in 1969, and the first one to be honored with it solo rather than sharing in the prize.

Claudia Goldin, 77, is the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University. She has long been a trailblazer in the field — she was the first woman to be offered tenure in Harvard’s economics department, in 1989.

She was asleep when the call informing her of the prize came in — she had gotten up earlier to let the dog out but had gone back to bed. She said in an interview that she was “delighted.”

She saw a woman winning the economics award on her own as a sort of “culmination” after years of “important changes” toward more gender diversity in the field.

The Nobel committee announced the award in Stockholm. The committee praised Dr. Goldin for her research into female employment, which showed that employment among married women decreased in the 1800s, as the economy moved away from agricultural and toward industry. Women’s participation then increased in the 1900s, as the service sector began to expand as a part of the economy.

She also illustrated that the process of closing the gender wage gap has been uneven over the course of history. Recently, progress in closing it has stalled.

In the past, gender wage gaps could be explained in part by education and occupation. But Dr. Goldin has shown that most of the earnings difference is now between men and women in the same jobs. Notably, it kicks in after the birth of a woman’s first child.

“Claudia Goldin’s discoveries have vast societal implications,” said Randi Hjalmarsson, a member of the committee and professor of economics at the University of Gothenburg.

Dr. Goldin said that she hoped people would take away from her work how important long-term changes are to understanding the labor market.

“We see a residue of history around us,” she said, explaining that societal and family structures that women and men grow up in shape their behavior and economic outcomes.

While there has been “monumental progressive change, at the same time there are important differences,” she said, and those differences often tie back to women doing more work in the home. “We’re never going to have gender equality until we also have couple equity.”

Last year, the award went to Ben S. Bernanke, the former Federal Reserve chair, along with Douglas W. Diamond of the University of Chicago and Philip H. Dybvig of Washington University in St. Louis. They won for work that has reshaped how the world understands the relationship between banks and financial crises.

The economics prize was established in memory of Alfred Nobel by Sweden’s central bank and is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

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