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Marriage Bars: Discrimination Against Married Women Workers, 1920's to 1950's

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  • Claudia Goldin

Abstract

Modern personnel practices, social consensus, and the Depression acted in concert to delay the emergence of married women in the American economy through an institution known as the "marriage bar." Marriage bars were policies adopted by firms and local school boards, from about the early 1900's to 1950, to fire single women when they married and not to hire married women. I explore their determinants using firm-level data from 1931 and 1940 and find they are associated with promotion from within, tenure-based salaries, and other modern personnel practices. The marriage bar, which had at its height affected 751 of all local school boards and more than 50% of all office workers, was virtually abandoned in the 1950's when the cost of limiting labor supply greatly increased.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2747.

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Date of creation: Oct 1988
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Publication status: published as Rosovsky, H., D. Landes, P. Higgonet (eds.) Favorites of Fortune: Technology, Growth and Economic Development Since the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2747

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  1. Jeremy I. Bulow & Lawrence H. Summers, 1985. "A Theory of Dual Labor Markets with Application to Industrial Policy, Discrimination and Keynesian Unemployment," NBER Working Papers 1666, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Goldin, Claudia, 1984. "The historical evolution of female earnings functions and occupations," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 1-27, January.
  3. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-84, December.
  4. Linda N. Edwards, 1988. "Equal employment opportunity in Japan: A view from the West," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 41(2), pages 240-250, January.
  5. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-64, October.
  6. Smith, James P & Ward, Michael P, 1985. "Time-Series Growth in the Female Labor Force," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(1), pages S59-90, January.
  7. Lazear, Edward P, 1981. "Agency, Earnings Profiles, Productivity, and Hours Restrictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 606-20, September.
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