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Maximum Hours Legislation and Female Employment: A Reassessment

  • Goldin, Claudia

The causes and results of state maximum hours legislation for female workers, passed from 1848 to the 1920s, are explored and found to differ from the interpretation presented by Landes (1980). Although maximum hours legislation served to decrease scheduled hours in 1920, the effect was minimal. Curiously, the legislation seems to have operated equally for men. Legislation affecting only females was symptomatic of a general desire by labor for lower hours, and these lower hours were achieved in the tight, and otherwise special, World War I labor market. Most significant, the restrictiveness of the legislation had no adverse effect on the employment share of women in manufacturing. Reasons for the relationship between the decline in hours worked by men and legislation protecting women are suggested, but it still is not clear what precise mechanisms operated to decrease hours of work for all.

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Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 2645471.

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Date of creation: 1988
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Political Economy
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:2645471
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