IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Enabling the Visible Hand


  • Ian Keay

    () (Queen's University)

  • Marina Adshade

    () (Dalhousie University)


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".

Suggested Citation

  • Ian Keay & Marina Adshade, 2006. "Enabling the Visible Hand," Working Papers 1103, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:qed:wpaper:1103

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: First version 2006
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    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. repec:mes:jeciss:v:37:y:2003:i:4:p:1045-1074 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Marina Adshade, 2007. "Female labor Force Participation in an Era of Organizational and Technological Change," Working Papers 1130, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
    9. Atack, Jeremy, 1977. "Returns to scale in antebellum United States manufacturing," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 337-359, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Marina Adshade, 2007. "Female labor Force Participation in an Era of Organizational and Technological Change," Working Papers 1130, Queen's University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item


    US manufacturing; Female labor force participation; Technological change;

    JEL classification:

    • N12 - Economic History - - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Industrial Structure; Growth; Fluctuations - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:qed:wpaper:1103. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Babcock). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.