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

  • Claudia Goldin

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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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11953.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
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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:11953
Note: CH DAE ED LS
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  1. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz & Ilyana Kuziemko, 2006. "The Homecoming of American College Women: The Reversal of the College Gender Gap," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(4), pages 133-156, Fall.
  2. 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.
  3. Claudia Goldin, 2005. "From the valley to the summit: a brief history of the quiet revolution that transformed women's work," Regional Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Q 1, pages 5-12.
  4. Blau, Francine D & Kahn, Lawrence M, 1997. "Swimming Upstream: Trends in the Gender Wage Differential in 1980s," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(1), pages 1-42, January.
  5. Moehling, Carolyn M., 2001. "Women'S Work And Men'S Unemployment," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(04), pages 926-949, December.
  6. Raquel Fernández & Alessandra Fogli & Claudia Olivetti, 2004. "Mothers and Sons: Preference Formation and Female Labor Force Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(4), pages 1249-1299, November.
  7. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Mehmet Yorukoglu, 2005. "Engines of Liberation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 109-133.
  8. Lundberg, S. & Pollak, R.A., 1991. "Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 91-08, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  9. Jacob Mincer & Solomon Polacheck, 1974. "Family Investments in Human Capital: Earnings of Women," NBER Chapters, in: Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children, and Human Capital, pages 397-431 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Heather Boushey, 2005. "Are Women Opting Out? Debunking the Myth," CEPR Reports and Issue Briefs 2005-36, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).
  11. 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.
  12. Clarence D. Long, 1958. "The Labor Force Under Changing Income and Employment," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number long58-1, October.
  13. Claudia Olivetti, 2006. "Changes in Women's Hours of Market Work: The Role of Returns to Experience," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 9(4), pages 557-587, October.
  14. 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.
  15. Daron Acemoglu & David H. Autor & David Lyle, 2002. "Women, War and Wages: The Effect of Female Labor Supply on the Wage Structure at Mid-Century," NBER Working Papers 9013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Claudia D. Goldin, 1980. "The Historical Evolution of Female Earnings Functions and Occupations," NBER Working Papers 0529, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Jacob Mincer & Solomon Polachek, 1974. "Family Investments in Human Capital: Earnings of Women," NBER Chapters, in: Marriage, Family, Human Capital, and Fertility, pages 76-110 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. Caroline M. Hill, 1904. "The Economic Value of the Home," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 12, pages 408.
  20. Claudia Goldin, 1990. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gold90-1, October.
  21. George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton, 2000. "Economics And Identity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(3), pages 715-753, August.
  22. 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.
  23. 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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