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

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  • Claudia Goldin

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Claudia Goldin, 2004. "From the Valley to the Summit: The Quiet Revolution that Transformed Women's Work," NBER Working Papers 10335, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10335
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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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    Cited by:

    1. Giovanni Olivei & Silvana Tenreyro, 2007. "The Timing of Monetary Policy Shocks," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(3), pages 636-663, June.
    2. Hélène Perivier, 2007. "Les femmes sur le marché du travail aux États-Unis - Une mise en perspective avec la France et la Suède," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2007-07, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    3. Jacobs, Josephine C. & Van Houtven, Courtney H. & Laporte, Audrey & Coyte, Peter C., 2015. "Baby Boomer caregivers in the workforce: Do they fare better or worse than their predecessors?," The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, Elsevier, vol. 6(C), pages 89-101.
    4. Katharine L. Bradbury & Jane Katz, 2004. "Wives' work and family income mobility," Public Policy Discussion Paper 04-3, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    5. Claude Diebolt & Faustine Perrin, 2013. "From Stagnation to Sustained Growth: The Role of Female Empowerment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 545-549, May.
    6. Dessy, Sylvain & Djebbari, Habiba, 2005. "Career Choice, Marriage-Timing, and the Attraction of Unequals," IZA Discussion Papers 1561, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Lex Borghans & Bas Ter Weel & Bruce A. Weinberg, 2014. "People Skills and the Labor-Market Outcomes of Underrepresented Groups," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 67(2), pages 287-334, April.
    8. Hélène Périvier, 2009. "Les femmes sur le marché du travail aux États-Unis. Évolutions mises en perspective avec celles de la France et de la Suède," Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 0(1), pages 49-84.
    9. William Poole, 2006. "U.S. labor input in coming years," Speech 107, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
    10. Hélène Périvier, 2008. "Les femmes sur le marché du travail aux Etats-Unis," Sciences Po publications 2008-12, Sciences Po.
    11. repec:spr:eurpop:v:34:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10680-017-9457-x is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/1203 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/6142 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Sean P. Corcoran & William N. Evans & Robert M. Schwab, 2004. "Women, the labor market, and the declining relative quality of teachers," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 23(3), pages 449-470.
    15. Hela Jeddi & Dhafer Malouche, 2015. "Wage gap between men and women in Tunisia," Papers 1511.02229, arXiv.org.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • N3 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy

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