Nobel Prize in Economics goes to Claudia Goldin

This year’s Nobel Prize in Economics has been awarded to Claudia Goldin, an American economic historian, in recognition of her groundbreaking work on women’s employment and pay disparities. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences highlighted that her research has provided crucial insights into the gender pay gap, making her the third woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Economics and the first to do so without male co-recipients.

Claudia Goldin, a 77-year-old academic, currently serves as a professor of labor market history at Harvard University in the United States. Her groundbreaking research spans 200 years of U.S. workforce data, shedding light on the evolution of gender differences in earnings and employment rates.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences praised Goldin’s contributions, stating that she offered the first comprehensive account of women’s earnings and labor market participation over centuries. Her research not only identified the causes of change in these areas but also pinpointed the primary sources of the remaining gender pay gap.

Goldin’s findings revealed that, historically, married women reduced their work participation after the onset of industrialisation in the 1800s but saw increased employment opportunities in the 1900s as the service sector expanded. Despite advancements in women’s education and the availability of contraceptives, the gender pay gap persisted. Notably, Goldin’s research highlighted that the current earnings disparity between men and women is largely attributed to the impact of having children.

Randi Hjalmarsson, a member of the prize committee, described Goldin as a “detective” whose work has profound societal implications. Goldin’s research has offered valuable insights for policymakers worldwide, emphasising that the nature and sources of gender disparities evolve throughout history and with economic development.

Globally, women’s labor force participation stands at approximately 50%, compared to 80% for men. However, women still earn less and are less likely to reach top leadership positions, underscoring the significance of Goldin’s work in addressing these challenges.

Claudia Goldin, who became the first woman to receive tenure in Harvard’s economics department in 1989, has been an advocate for increasing women’s representation in economics. She believes that economics needs to be reframed to attract more women by emphasising its relevance to issues such as inequality, health, household behaviour, and society, rather than solely focusing on finance and management.

The Nobel Prize in Economics, formally known as the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, was established in 1968 and is funded by Sweden’s central bank. Notably, Elinor Ostrom was the first woman to win the economics prize in 2009, sharing it with Oliver E. Williamson for their research on economic governance. In 2019, Esther Duflo became the second woman to win, jointly awarded with her husband Abhijit Banerjee and Michael Kremer for their work on poverty alleviation in India and Kenya.

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