Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist, has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for her work on the gender wage gap.
Goldin is only the third woman to receive the coveted economics prize.
Goldin, 77, was honored for her research demonstrating that, despite having higher education levels, women get paid less than men on average, and that the majority of the disparity arises after motherhood.
Goldin’s research, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, “provided the first comprehensive account of women’s earnings and labor market participation through the centuries,” revealing “the causes of change, as well as the main sources of the remaining gender gap.”
She is only the third woman to receive the award, following Elinor Ostrom in 2009 and Esther Duflo in 2019. The prize is worth 11 million Swedish crowns (£819,000).
Goldin has charted women’s work lives and earnings to illustrate that the Industrial Revolution produced a significant drop in their independent earnings relative to males before a comeback at the turn of the last century that was hastened by changing attitudes after WWII.
The contraceptive pill enabled women to make more gains, but child rearing has proven to be a chronic impediment to income equality.
“Her research reveals the causes of change, as well as the main sources of the remaining gender gap,” the awarding body stated in a statement.
Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women, written by Goldin in 1990, was an influential investigation of how pay disparity developed over the last 250 years, with the distinguishing difference in the modern era being among couples when they first had a child.
“The important point is that both lose,” she said last year on the Social Science Bites blog. “Men forgo time with their family and women often forgo their career.”
Goldin discovered that the majority of the wage disparity between men and women in the same occupation arises mostly after they have children.
“Claudia Goldin’s discoveries have vast societal implications,” stated Randi Hjalmarsson, a member of the economic prize committee. “By finally understanding the problem and calling it by the right name, we will be able to pave a better route forward.”
Goldin was the first woman to be tenured in the Harvard economics department, and she has subsequently published multiple books and research papers on the causes of inequality.
The Nobel Prize in Economics, formally known as the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, was established in 1968 by Sweden’s central bank and is not one of the original prizes financed by the inventor of dynamite.
Previous winners include free-market advocates Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, as well as left-wing US trade expert Paul Krugman.
Former Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke was among three economists honored last year for their study on how regulating banks and bailing out failing lenders with public cash might prevent a financial crisis on par with the Great Depression of the 1930s.