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From the Valley to the Summit: The Quiet Revolution that Transformed Women's Work

  • Claudia Goldin

Meaningful discussions about women at the top' can take place today only because a quiet revolution occurred about thirty years ago. The transformation was startlingly rapid and was accomplished by the unwitting foot soldiers of an upheaval that transformed the workforce. It can be seen in a number of social and economic indicators. Sharp breaks are apparent in data on labor market expectations, college graduation rates, professional degrees, labor force participation rates, and the age at first marriage. Turning points are also evident in most of the series for college majors and occupations. Inflection or break points in almost all of these series occur from the late 1960s to the early 1970s and for cohorts born during the 1940s. Whatever the precise reasons for change, a great divide in college-graduate women's lives and employment occurred about 35 years ago. Previously, women who reached the peaks often made solo climbs and symbolized that women, contrary to conventional wisdom, could achieve greatness. But real change demanded a march by the masses from the valley to the summit.' That march began with cohorts born in the late 1940s.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10335.

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Date of creation: Mar 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Goldin, Claudia. "The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women's Employment, Education, And Family," American Economic Review, 2006, v96(2,May), 1-21.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10335
Note: DAE LS
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  1. Leonard, Jonathan S, 1989. "Women and Affirmative Action," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(1), pages 61-75, Winter.
  2. Leonard, Jonathan S, 1990. "The Impact of Affirmative Action Regulation and Equal Employment Law on Black Employment," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 47-63, Fall.
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