(JTA) — Claudia Goldin, a Jewish scholar at Harvard University, won the Nobel Prize for Economics for her work tracking the disparity in earnings for women in the labor market.
“Claudia Goldin has trawled the archives and collected over 200 years of data from the U.S., allowing her to demonstrate how and why gender differences in earnings and employment rates have changed over time,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said Monday in its release.
Goldin, 77, shattered a glass ceiling in 1989 when she became the first tenured woman professor in Harvard’s Economics Department. “I think it will be very good for Harvard to have a tenured woman, and I’m pleased to be that woman,” Goldin said at the time, speaking the the campus student newspaper, the Crimson.
Her seminal work, “Understanding the Gender Gap — An Economic History of American Women,” published in 1992, sought to prove that opportunity for women in the labor market was less a function of changing social mores or economic growth than it was susceptible to a variety of factors, including a woman’s age, her education and expectations of mothers.
“Goldin showed that female participation in the labor market did not have an upward trend over this entire period, but instead forms a U-shaped curve,” the Academy said in its release, referring to the 200-year scope of Goldin’s research.
“The participation of married women decreased with the transition from an agrarian to an industrial society in the early nineteenth century, but then started to increase with the growth of the service sector in the early twentieth century,” it said.
At the press conference announcing the award, Jakob Svensson, the chairman of the prize committee, said Goldin helped elucidate why women remain “vastly underrepresented” in the labor market despite being better educated.
“Understanding women’s role in the labor market is important in society, not the least because if women do not have the same opportunity as men, or they participate on unequal terms, labour, skills and talent go wasted,” said Svensson, a professor of economics at Stockholm University. “Thanks to Professor Goldin’s groundbreaking research we know much more about the underlying facts driving women’s labor market outcomes and which barriers may need top be addressed in the future.”
An attempt by the Nobel committee to reach Goldin by phone at the press conference failed. Prize organizers said they had spoken with her earlier and that she was “surprised and glad.”
Goldin’s most recent work, “Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey toward Equity,” published in 2021, discusses “why true equity for dual career couples remains frustratingly out of reach,” according to Goldin’s Harvard University biography pages.
“Antidiscrimination laws and unbiased managers, while valuable, are not enough,” says Goldin’s precis of her book. “‘Career and Family’ explains why we must make fundamental changes to the way we work and how we value caregiving if we are ever to achieve gender equality and couple equity.”
Goldin, a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science in New York City, has also looked into the historic role of Jews in the marketplace. The authors of a 2003 Boston University paper, “From Farmers to Merchants: A Human Capital Interpretation of Jewish Economic History,” consulted with Goldin.
A 2001 paper she cowrote for the National Bureau of Economic Research, on the tendency of women to retain their surname when married, was based in part on an analysis of wedding announcements in the New York Times in 1991. A third of the religious ceremonies were Jewish, the authors noted, “not surprising given the location” of the newspaper. Religious ceremonies for Jews and for others, they found, were likelier to correlate to women changing their name.
Goldin devotes two pages on her Harvard University biography site to her golden retrievers: Prairie, who died in 2009, and Pika, who is 13. She lists his distinctions, as a therapy dog and as a winner of the Excellent Title in Performance Scent Dogs. Her most recent posting marks his “bark mitzvah.”
Also distinguished is her husband, Lawrence Katz, who is a professor of economics at Harvard.
According to one tally, 37 Jews have won the Nobel in economics, including one of last year’s recipient, Ben Bernanke, the former chairman of the federal reserve.