Nobel Economics Prize Goes to Professor Studying Gender in Workplace

    09 October 2023

    The Nobel Prize in economics has been awarded to Claudia Goldin for her work on the gap between men and women in the workplace.

    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced the prize on Monday. The 77-year-old Goldin is only the third woman among 93 past Nobel economics prizewinners. She is a professor at Harvard University.

    Goldin's research has shown that even in the field of economics, women earn about 13 percent less than men. The pay gap prevents some women from continuing their education.

    US economist Claudia Goldin, who was awarded the Nobel prize in economics, talks to the press at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 9, 2023. (Photo by Lauren Owens Lambert / AFP)
    US economist Claudia Goldin, who was awarded the Nobel prize in economics, talks to the press at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on October 9, 2023. (Photo by Lauren Owens Lambert / AFP)

    The Nobel committee credits Goldin with finding missing data to better explain continuing differences between both the pay and work involvement, or participation, of men and women.

    The group called Goldin "a detective" who found new data sources and "creative ways to use them to measure these unknowns."

    Goldin studied information related to female participation in the workplace over 200 years and found that their pay started low and never caught up to men.

    She looked at women whose jobs went uncounted, such as those who worked on farms alongside their husbands or made clothing at home. Goldin said the pay gap that existed then still exists today, even as women gain higher levels of education than men.

    In the 1990s, she said, American women led the world in their labor participation rate. But the rate has dropped since then.

    "I think something has happened in America," Goldin said. "We have to ... ask questions about piecing together the family, the home ... with the marketplace and employment."

    Even as women have made education gains, Goldin notes, they still often feel pressure to stay at home to care for children or to choose jobs that permit them to be available to children.

    "They graduate from college at much higher rates than men. They do better in high school than men do. So why are there these differences?" Goldin asked.

    Randi Hjalmarsson of the Nobel committee said Goldin's work does not provide specific solutions to the problem. However, she said Goldin did identify "the source of the gap, and how it's changed over time ..."

    Hjalmarsson added, "By finally understanding the problem and calling it by the right name, we will be able to pave a better route forward."

    Goldin suggested men need to do a better job sharing childcare and work responsibilities. Women, she said, often miss out on career progress that comes with working longer hours or on weekends because they feel pressure to care for children.

    She also suggested that the U.S. government put more money into after-school programs. "Very few of us have jobs that finish at 3 p.m.," she said. Goldin noted that women in Canada, France and Japan currently have a higher labor participation rate than those in the U.S.

    Goldin said some of the work still needs to be done by couples. She notes that "couple equity also leads to more gender equity." Goldin also noted that girls pay attention to how their mothers participated in work and that "each generation (learns) from the successes and failures of preceding generations."

    The prize comes with an award of about $1 million and will be presented at a ceremony in Sweden later this year.

    I'm Dan Friedell.

    Dan Friedell adapted this report for VOA Learning English based on reporting from the Associated Press.


    Words in This Story

    gap –n. the distance between two things, such as man's pay and a woman's pay

    couple –n. two people who live together and have a romantic or sexual relationship

    detective –n. a person who solves a mystery or finds an answer to something unknown

    preceding –adj. existing or happening before