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The Meaning of College in the Lives of American Women: The Past One-Hundred Years

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  • Claudia Goldin

Abstract

Three cohorts of college women are considered here. The first, graduating from 1900 to 1920, was faced with a choice of "family or career,? while the second, graduating from 1945 to the early 1960s, opted for family and employment serially - that is, "family then job." The third, graduating since 1980 in a climate of greater gender equality, is attempting both "family and career, " with mixed results and considerable frustration. This paper assesses the reasons for the changing set of tradeoffs each generation of college women faced and why the college education of women expanded in the post-World War II era. The first cohort attended college when the numbers of men and women in college were about equal, while the second attended college when the proportion of all undergraduates who were male was at an all-time high. Only half of the return to college for the second cohort came in the form of their B.A. degrees, while the other half came from their Mrs. degrees. Ironically, because the total return to college -- from the B.A. and Mrs. degrees -- was quite high, enrollments of women expanded rapidly and eventually gave rise to a demand for greater gender equality in the labor market and society.

Suggested Citation

  • Claudia Goldin, 1992. "The Meaning of College in the Lives of American Women: The Past One-Hundred Years," NBER Working Papers 4099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4099
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    Cited by:

    1. Claudia Goldin, 2004. "The Long Road to the Fast Track: Career and Family," NBER Working Papers 10331, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Dora L. Costa & Matthew E. Kahn, 2000. "Power Couples: Changes in the Locational Choice of the College Educated, 1940–1990," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 115(4), pages 1287-1315.
    3. Gautier, Pieter A. & Svarer, Michael & Teulings, Coen, 2005. "Marriage and the City," IZA Discussion Papers 1491, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Pieter Gautier & Michael Svarer & Coen Teulings, 2005. "Testing for Additive Outliers in Seasonally Integrated Time Series," Economics Working Papers 2005-01, Department of Economics and Business Economics, Aarhus University.
    5. Nielsen, Helena Skyt & Svarer, Michael, 2006. "Educational Homogamy: Preferences or Opportunities?," IZA Discussion Papers 2271, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. repec:eee:jeborg:v:140:y:2017:i:c:p:35-55 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Philip Oreopoulos & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2011. "Priceless: The Nonpecuniary Benefits of Schooling," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 159-184, Winter.
    8. Philip Oreopoulos & Kjell G. Salvanes, 2009. "How large are returns to schooling? Hint: Money isn't everything," NBER Working Papers 15339, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Michael Kremer, 1996. "How Much Does Sorting Increase Inequality?," NBER Working Papers 5566, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Dan Anderberg & Yu Zhu, 2014. "What a difference a term makes: the effect of educational attainment on marital outcomes in the UK," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 27(2), pages 387-419, April.
    11. Lisa Jepsen, 2005. "The Relationship Between Wife’s Education and Husband’s Earnings: Evidence from 1960 to 2000," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 3(2), pages 197-214, June.
    12. Jose-Victor Rios-Rull & Virginia Sánchez-Marcos, 2002. "College Attainment of Women," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 5(4), pages 965-998, October.
    13. Helena Skyt Nielsen & Michael Svarer, 2009. "Educational Homogamy: How Much is Opportunities?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(4).

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