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The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women's Employment, Education, and Family

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  • Claudia Goldin

Abstract

The modern economic role of women emerged in four phases. The first three were evolutionary; the last was revolutionary. Phase I occurred from the late nineteenth century to the 1920s; Phase II was from 1930 to 1950; Phase III extended from 1950 to the late 1970s; and Phase IV, the "quiet revolution," began in the late 1970s and is still ongoing. Three aspects of women's choices distinguish the evolutionary from the revolutionary phases: horizon, identity, and decision-making. The evolutionary phases are apparent in time-series data on labor force participation. The revolutionary phase is discernible using time-series evidence on women's more predictable attachment to the workplace, greater identity with career, and better ability to make joint decisions with their spouses. Each of these series has a sharp break or inflection point signifying social and economic change. These changes, moreover, coincide by birth cohort or period. The relationship between the development of modern labor economics and the reality of women's changing economic role is explored. The paper concludes by assessing whether the revolution has stalled or is being reversed. Women who graduated college in the early 1980s did not "opt-out,"but recent cohorts are too young to evaluate.

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File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/000282806777212350
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 96 (2006)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Pages: 1-21

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:96:y:2006:i:2:p:1-21

Note: DOI: 10.1257/000282806777212350
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  1. Caroline M. Hill, 1904. "The Economic Value of the Home," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12, pages 408.
  2. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709, September.
  3. Lundberg, S. & Pollak, R.A., 1991. "Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market," Working Papers 91-08, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
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  8. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2000. "The Power of the Pill: Oral Contraceptives and Women's Career and Marriage Decisions," NBER Working Papers 7527, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Goldin, Claudia, 1984. "The historical evolution of female earnings functions and occupations," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 1-27, January.
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  12. Goldin, Claudia, 1998. "America's Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century," Scholarly Articles 2664307, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  13. Claudia Goldin, 2004. "From the valley to the summit: a brief history of the quiet revolution that transformed women's work," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Mar.
  14. Goldin, Claudia & Kuziemko, Ilyana & Katz, Lawrence, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," Scholarly Articles 2962611, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  15. Goldin, Claudia D, 1991. "The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women's Employment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(4), pages 741-56, September.
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  18. Edith Abbott, 1906. "The History of Industrial Employment of Women in the United States: An Introductory Study," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14, pages 461.
  19. Claudia Goldin, 1989. "The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women's Work," NBER Working Papers 3203, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. McElroy, Marjorie B & Horney, Mary Jean, 1981. "Nash-Bargained Household Decisions: Toward a Generalization of the Theory of Demand," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 22(2), pages 333-49, June.
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