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The Role of World War II in the Rise of Women's Work

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  • Claudia Goldin

Abstract

The 1940's were a turning point in married women's labor force participation, leading many to credit World War II with spurring economic and social change. This paper uses information from two retrospective surveys, one in 1944 and another in 1951, to resolve the role of World War II in the rise of women's paid work. More than 50% of all married women working in 1950 had been employed in 1940, and more than half of the decade's new entrants joined the labor force after the war. Of those women who entered the labor force during the war, almost half exited before 1950. Employment during World War II did not enhance a woman's earnings in 1950 in a manner consistent with most hypotheses about the war. Considerable persistence in the labor force and in occupations during the turbulent 1940's is displayed for women working in 1950, similar to findings for the periods both before and after. World War Il had several significant indirect impacts on women's employment, but its direct influence appears considerably more modest.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3203
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    Cited by:

    1. Claudia Goldin, 2006. "The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women's Employment, Education, and Family," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 1-21, May.
    2. DeCicca, Philip, 2007. "Does full-day kindergarten matter? Evidence from the first two years of schooling," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 67-82, February.
    3. Fetter, Daniel K., 2016. "The Home Front: Rent Control and the Rapid Wartime Increase in Home Ownership," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 76(04), pages 1001-1043, December.
    4. Renée B. Adams & Tom Kirchmaier, "undated". "From Female Labor Force Participation to Boardroom Gender Diversity," FMG Discussion Papers dp715, Financial Markets Group.

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