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Understanding the Gender Gap

An Economic History of American Women

Claudia Goldin

Publication Date - 13 February 1992

ISBN: 9780195072709

328 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches


Women have entered the labor market in unprecedented numbers, yet these critically needed workers still earn less than men and have fewer opportunities for advancement. This study traces the evolution of the female labor force in America, addressing the issue of gender distinction in the workplace and refuting the notion that women's employment advances were a response to social revolution rather than long-run economic progress. Employing innovative quantitative history methods and new data series on employment, earnings, work experience, discrimination, and hours of work, it establishes that the present economic status of women evolved gradually over the last two centuries and that past conceptions of women workers persist.


"Goes a long way toward the reintegration of labor history into labor economics....Clearly demonstrates the importance of history in understanding the evolution and operation of labor markets...a primer on much of modern labor economics."--Journal of Economic History

"An excellent historical overview of women in the labor force. A very challenging but manageable text for undergraduates with a limited economics background."--Hilarie Lieb, Northwestern University

"An insightful analysis not available in traditional studies of the U.S. economy."--J. M. Skaggs, Wichita State University

"Outstanding....Goldin has painstakingly assembled a long and rich set of consistent data, much of it rescued from dusty archives where it had long languished....Uses fresh, often innovative applications of economic theory and econometric methodology to wrest explanations of puzzling phenomena....Rewarding."--Women Historians of the Midwest Newsletter

"A remarkable work of scholarship: it integrates economic theory, econometrics, a vast historical literature, and a deep understanding of institutions and attitudes....A tour de force. Its lucky readers will not only be glad they read it; they will wish they had written it."--Industrial and Labor Relations Review

"Remarkably thorough history and analysis of U.S. women in the workplace....Provides a useful framework to understand the difference in pay and aruges from the data that much--but not all--of the gap is due to wage discrimination."--Population Today

"A piece of outstanding scholarship based on exhaustive primary research and a high level of economic reasoning which has the courage to attack head-on the three most difficult questions in women's economic history."--Business History

"Thorough, detalied and impeccably researched, yet accessible to the undergraduate. A fine effort."--Michael Haupert, University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse

"Pathbreaking....Claudia Goldin combines the quantitative skills of an economist with the investigative skills of a historian in her reinterpretation and adjustment of earlier published data as well as her creative use of previously unanalyzed data from the National Archives."--Population and Development Review

"Goldin's multifaced exploration of the female labor force over the past two centuries sheds light on the direction for future research."--Journal of Interdisciplinary History

Table of Contents

    1. Women's Experience in the American Economy
    2. The Evolution of the Female Labor Force
    3. The Gender Gap in Earnings and Occupations
    4. The Emergence of "Wage Discrimination"
    5. The Changing Economic Role of Married Women
    6. Why Did Change Take So Long?
    7. The Political Economy of Gender
    8. Economic Progress and Gender Equality
    Appendix to Chapter 2: Correction to the c. 1860 Female Labor Force Participation Rates
    Data Appendix

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