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Enabling the Visible Hand

Listed author(s):
  • Ian Keay


    (Queen's University)

  • Marina Adshade


    (Dalhousie University)

Registered author(s):

In this paper we use data from more than 2,500 industry-years, reported by the Ohio Division of Labor Statistics, to track changes in employment and weekly wages among male and female production workers and clerical workers between 1914-1937. We find that among Ohio's manufacturing establishments female employment and real wages were rising throughout this period, particularly within clerical occupations. Increases in women's share of the total manufacturing workforce were nearly monotonic between 1914-1937, while after having been, at best, stagnant until the mid- 1920s, women's relative wages increased through the last half of the 1920s and into the 1930s. After matching our employment and wage data with information from the Census of Manufactures for the state of Ohio, we estimate translog production functions which indicate that Ohio manufacturers were adopting new organizational structures and technologies that were biased in favor of female clerical labor. This non-neutrality in technological and organizational change (like the employment and wage patterns) was driven primarily by larger firms that had relatively complex production processes. A simple counterfactual exercise indicates that the adoption of non-neutral technological and organizational change over this period can explain much of the observed increase in demand and remuneration for educated female manufacturing workers. This conclusion emphasizes the role women played channeling early twentieth century organizational and technological change, in effect enabling Chandler's "visible hand".

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Paper provided by Queen's University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 1103.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Nov 2006
Handle: RePEc:qed:wpaper:1103
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  1. Dora L. Costa, 2000. "From Mill Town to Board Room: The Rise of Women's Paid Labor," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(4), pages 101-122, Fall.
  2. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Mehmet Yorukoglu, 2005. "Engines of Liberation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(1), pages 109-133.
  3. Goldin, Claudia, 1998. "America's Graduation from High School: The Evolution and Spread of Secondary Schooling in the Twentieth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 58(02), pages 345-374, June.
  4. Chandler, Alfred D., 1969. "The Structure of American Industry in the Twentieth Century: A Historical Overview," Business History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(03), pages 255-298, September.
  5. Diewert, W. E., 1976. "Exact and superlative index numbers," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 115-145, May.
  6. Rotella, Elyce J., 1981. "The Transformation of the American Office: Changes in Employment and Technology," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 41(01), pages 51-57, March.
  7. Marina Adshade, 2007. "Female labor Force Participation in an Era of Organizational and Technological Change," Working Papers 1130, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  8. Atack, Jeremy, 1977. "Returns to scale in antebellum United States manufacturing," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 337-359, November.
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