November 24, 2023 opinion

How Claudia Goldin inspires me by shattering barriers in the male-dominated realm of economics

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Nadia Diakowska in Warsaw, Poland

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Claudia Dale Goldin was born in 1946 in New York. She is the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University.

Picture: CC BY-SA 4.0

The recognition of Claudia Goldin as this year’s Nobel Prize Winner in Economics serves as an inspiring beacon for aspiring female researchers, offering hope and paving the way for us in the traditionally male-dominated field of economics through her remarkable accomplishments.

According to the think-tank INOMICS, only 26.2% of all economic researchers are women. Goldin herself belongs to the 3% of female Economics Nobel Prize winners.

American economic historian and Harvard University professor, 77, won the Nobel Prize for providing the first-ever comprehensive long-term analysis of women’s incomes and labour force participation throughout centuries.

Her thorough study approach included multiple data analysis techniques, ranging from quantitative data, surveys, and questionnaires to historical records and policy changes.

She dominated the field of labour economics by uncovering the key drivers of gender differences in the labour market to make history by becoming the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in economics and the first woman to be awarded the prize solo.

For me, the most incredible thing about Goldin’s work is its extensive database, as she researched over 200 years worth of material, while the average ‘advanced’ research paper only focuses on around 17 years.

Goldin also made the astounding connection between the introduction of the birth control pill and the changes in women’s education choices.

She showed that after the launch of the contraceptive pill in the US, women started choosing more difficult and longer university courses, and they were overall more likely to pursue higher education.

She proposed the hypothesis that contraception gave women so much comfort and safety regarding their ability to pursue a career without the limits of unwanted pregnancies. Its wide availability to women fundamentally changed the labour market and the education choices of women.

Goldin argued that access to the contraceptive pill played a vital role in accelerating the revolutionary increase in female workforce participation by offering new opportunities for career planning.

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  • Picture by: Johan Jarnestad | The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    Illustration: Johan Jarnestad | The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

  • Since 1960, the contraceptive pill has revolutionized women's lives. One woman financed the research

    According to the economist’s findings, after the introduction of easily accessible contraception in the 1960s, female participation nearly doubled in size, as it increased from 37% to 63% between 1960 and 1980.

    She rejected the prevailing “continuous change” theory according to which unequal wages are explained by the fact that the entrance of unskilled women into the labour force diluted the qualifications of women in general.

    Instead, she presented a previously unheard-of hypothesis.

    Applying an interdisciplinary approach, Goldin tackled a wide array of issues, varying from slavery to family dynamics and the evolution of the education system, to eventually piece together a comprehensive narrative of women’s participation in the economic market.

    Goldin was one of the first people in the history of economics to prepare such a grand and meticulous piece of work that clarifies the previously overlooked reasoning behind fluctuations in female workforce participation.

    Goldin is not only one of the most incredible researchers of our time but also an admirable inspiration for me and other women who wish to enter male-dominated fields.

    Her accomplishments give me hope that soon enough, all women in science will be appreciated for their contributions to society.

    Written by:

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    Nadia Diakowska

    Economics Correspondent

    Warsaw, Poland

    Born in 2005, Nadia is a graduate of Stefan Batory High School in Warsaw, currently taking a gap year to complete A-levels.

    Her main interests include economics, mathematics and psychology. In the future, Nadia plans to study economics and management in the UK.

    Edited by:

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    Timur Boranbayev

    Economics Section Editor

    London, United Kingdom

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