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Claudia Goldin wins Nobel for work on women in the labour market

American economist Claudia Goldin won the Nobel economics prize 'for having advanced our understanding of women's labour market outcomes'
American economist Claudia Goldin won the Nobel economics prize 'for having advanced our understanding of women's labour market outcomes' - Copyright AFP Mohsen KARIMI
American economist Claudia Goldin won the Nobel economics prize 'for having advanced our understanding of women's labour market outcomes' - Copyright AFP Mohsen KARIMI
Johannes LEDEL

The Nobel prize in economics was on Monday awarded to American economist Claudia Goldin for her research that has helped understand the role of women in the labour market.

The 77-year-old Harvard professor, who is the third woman to be awarded the prestigious economics prize, was given the nod “for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes,” the jury said.

“Her research reveals the causes of change, as well as the main sources of the remaining gender gap,” it added in a statement.

Globally, about 50 percent of women participate in the labour market compared to 80 percent of men, but women earn less and are less likely to reach the top of the career ladder, the prize committee noted.

The Nobel prize in economics has the fewest number of women laureates, with just two others since it was first awarded in 1969 — Elinor Ostrom in 2009 and Esther Duflo in 2019.

Goldin has “trawled the archives and collected over 200 years of data from the US,” the jury said.

“She studied something that many people, many historians, for instance, simply decided not to study before because they didn’t think these data existed,” Nobel committee member Randi Hjalmarsson said, calling Goldin “a detective”.

The jury highlighted that Goldin’s work’s “provided the first comprehensive account of women’s earnings and labour market participation through the centuries.”

It noted that despite modernisation — coupled with economic growth and a rising proportion of women in the labour market — the earnings gap between men and women hardly closed for a long time.

“According to Goldin, part of the explanation is that educational decisions, which impact a lifetime of career opportunities, are made at a relatively young age,” the jury noted.

– The pill –

While much of the earnings gap historically could be explained by differences in education and occupational choices, Goldin “has shown that the bulk of this earnings difference is now between men and women in the same occupation, and that it largely arises with the birth of the first child.”

Goldin’s work also demonstrated that “access to the contraceptive pill” played an important role in accelerating the increase in education levels during the 20th century, by “offering new opportunities for career planning,” according to the Nobel committee.

“Thanks to Claudia Goldin’s groundbreaking research we now know much more about the underlying factors and which barriers may need to be addressed in the future,” Jakob Svensson, Chair of the Committee for the Prize in Economic Sciences, said in a statement.

The economics prize is the only prize not among the original five set out by the will of Alfred Nobel, who died in 1896.

It was instead created through a donation from the Swedish central bank in 1968, and detractors have thus dubbed it “a false Nobel”.

However, just like the other science prizes the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences selects the laureate and the nomination process follows the same procedures.

Along with a prize sum of 11 million Swedish kronor (about $1 million), the Nobel comes with a gold medal and a diploma which laureates receive from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a lavish prize ceremony in Stockholm.

The prestigious Peace Prize on Friday went to imprisoned Iranian women’s rights campaigner Narges Mohammadi.

Earlier in the week, Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse was rewarded in literature.

The chemistry prize was awarded to Moungi Bawendi, Louis Brus and Alexei Ekimov for their work on nanoparticles called quantum dots.

In physics, Anne L’Huillier, Pierre Agostini and Ferenc Krausz were honoured for using ultra-quick light flashes that enable the study of electrons inside atoms and molecules.

The medicine prize, the first to be announced, went to a duo — Katalin Kariko and Drew Weissman — for their groundbreaking technology that paved the way for mRNA Covid-19 vaccines.

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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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