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"Career & Family": Professor Claudia Goldin

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

Professor Claudia Goldin joins me to discuss her new book, "Career & Family: Women's Century-Long Journey Toward Equity". You can listen to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify etc.

Why do men dominate top jobs?

Alice Evans: Let's plunge head first into the patriarchy. My first question, men dominate business leadership: to what extent do you think this is due to testosterone? Pumping them up to take bigger risks and then thrive in business?

Claudia Goldin: Well, certainly that could be the case and we know that there are various cohorts, so many of the leaders are in their sixties and seventies and they came up in, in various ways and there is a pipeline. There's absolutely no question that women often step back so that their husbands - to the extent that they're in heterosexual unions - step forward and they step back because they need to take someone needs to take care of the kids.

Alice Evans: So how much do you think this is due to biology, as opposed to socially constructed gender roles, that women choose to step back and do the school run?

Claudia Goldin: Well, socially constructed gender norms come from something that happened long ago. So biology has gotta be in there somewhere. But [social norms] are diminishing - we know that from the fact that women do take on occupations and professions that they didn't before.

But it's clearly the case that when a decision has to be made within the couple, women disproportionately are the ones who step back.

That doesn't mean that they're not in high power professions. That doesn't mean that they don't have a sense of identity in that work. But it does mean that for some time they stepped back and many of them pay the price later. So I might also add that paying the price for your career. It also means getting the great joys and pleasures of being around your kids. And so one person's gain is from the other person's loss. Fathers in surveys say, “I wish I could have spent more time with my kids”. And I know a lot of grandparents that say, “I am spending so much time with my grandkids because I didn't with my kids”.

Alice Evans: How much of the gender pay gap stems from women's choices to step back as opposed to discrimination?

Claudia Goldin: It's a difficult calculation. There is a review piece recently [by Blau and Kahn] that goes through all the best studies of what we think of as real discrimination and the numbers are maybe around 20, 25%, maybe less than that.

Alice Evans: What do you think is a good method for working out discrimination?

Claudia Goldin: Well, the devil is in the details, and one has to go through each of these papers. Each one has its pluses and its minuses, but this is a review piece going through all the possibilities. So, first of all, we know what's the residual and we call that wage discrimination, but that residual some of it is due to actual bias.

We know from audit studies some information about actual bias. We know if we give out two resumes that are identical but are different in terms of the name: one has a distinctively black name, one has a distinctively white name, one is a male, one is a female, one is Hispanic, one is not.

Alice Evans: For women choosing to step back, do you think reflects their own preferences to be a mother as compared to discrimination against mothers regardless of their productivity? Shelley Correll and others find that even when mothers are equally productive, employers may still presume them less reliable, less productive, so prefer not to hire them, prefer not to promote.

Claudia Goldin: Clearly some of it is due to that. And that could be raised as a classic discrimination case. But the fact that we have events studies, that directly after a birth or a marriage, independent of the country... There is some excellent work by Henry Kleven and various co-authors (and many others, who do events studies) that subsequent to a birth there's a very, very large decrease in hours then a recovery, but the earnings gap remains for a fairly long time. So it certainly looks as if there is something at that point and not as if it's something that develops sometime later when employers figure out “this is the person I shouldn't give the big clients to”. However, there's also sexist paternalism: “She just had a kid. We shouldn't ask her to do something”. No. Ask her and let her decide.

Alice Evans: How do you think we should conceptualise discrimination? On the one hand, we could look at individual characteristics and individual choices. But I wonder if there is bias built into our workplaces that makes it very difficult to be a mother. So, when women choose more flexible, isn't that itself a result of discrimination: male-majority workplaces and male management refuse to make their workplaces more female friendly?

Claudia Goldin: Or more friendly period. There are a lot of workplaces and Silicon Valley is a very good example where at some moment in the day, everyone takes their mountain bike out and says, “let's just, you know, hit the hills”.

So there are certain workplaces (and some of them are considered to be toxic in various other ways) which have built in flexibility. And the flexibility is inherent to the product that the degree to which you don't have a client breathing, carry your neck you can head to the hills on your mountain bike. But when the client is breathing down your neck, then those are the workplaces that are inherently less flexible and therefore they're worse for individuals who value the flexibility.

Let me step back a bit and say that it's not flexibility per se. It's the cost of flexibility so I can take any job and make it flexible and pay it a pittance. So the question is if you make it flexible, how much is it worth?

And this gets to what is going to be happening soon. So we, we have decided that for a while we can’t travel to Japan or to Beijing or to Germany or to Paris and firms are doing big business: writing contracts, making handshakes over zoom. It appears as if firms have realized that the cost of flexibility has really gone down. And so these jobs - that because of the nature of the job were not good for women with children (or not good for any parents with children or with any care responsibilities or any reason to be home in the evening or on the weekend) - these are going to be accessible.

Alice Evans: Right. And this is the core argument of your book. Women are choosing flexible work, whereas it's greedy work with longer hours that is especially well paid. And that's a key part of the gender pay gap. Whereas due to organizational, commercial and technological shifts, pharmacists are now substitutable and women can work part-time with no massive loss in pay. So they're still earning a great deal, despite it being flexible.

Claudia Goldin: There are various ways of having flexibility. There's not just substitution between people. I have something I would call in my perfect substitute, who happens to be my husband, who's more than perfect. But there's also what I just mentioned about travel. That's actually changing the nature of the client-professional relationship.

Why do qualified women leave STEM?

Alice Evans: In your book, you look across different professions and you ask a bunch of questions, like “are there strict deadlines, how much flexibility is there?” and you find surprisingly and interestingly that many STEM professions actually look rather good for motherhood. They're quite flexible.

Claudia Goldin: Absolutely. Just, as I said before, “let's just get out on our mountain back and head for the hills”.

Alice Evans: And the curious thing is that these STEM professions are hemorrhaging women. A small minority of women go into these sectors and then even if they qualify, even if they join those sectors, they're especially likely to leave. What is your view of why that's happening? Because they sound great for mothers and yet they're leaving, so what's going wrong?

Claudia Goldin: I'm not sure. I have to look at the data on them leaving, at what moment they're leaving. But biological sciences is a very, very large part of the STEM field and right now more than 50% female in terms of PhDs. And we see them possibly leaving academia, but not leaving the area. However, you ask a very, very good question that may explain differences in computer science or engineering, and there may be a different culture.

In my own field of economics that different culture may be what women see as less friendly: they may see what they're studying to be less human, less having to do with the well-being of society. But “leaving” [STEM] is often entering college saying, “I'm going to be an engineer” and then not being an engineer. But once one has a biology degree, the fraction who are staying is pretty high. But as I said, it depends upon where they're working. And once again, there is extremely good research on that, that we can look at.

Alice Evans: I was recently reading a comparative paper of undergraduate classrooms in life sciences (that is, biology) and physical sciences. In life sciences, there is now a growing share of women and many of those classrooms are now female-majority. Women achieve top grades in both classes [biology and physics]. In biology, their male peers are more likely to recognize them as knowledgeable and want to work with them and study together. But in physical sciences, even when women get the top grades, men are far less likely to see them as knowledgeable and to want to study them together.

I see this repeating. In male majority workplace, there tends to be men socializing together, men not recognizing women's skills. So, building on that, do you think there is gender bias and economics?

Claudia Goldin: I'm sure that there's gender bias, all over in various ways. I'm never going to deny that.

But I think one of the great things that's happening is that we're talking about it [gender bias].

Our first year students form study groups and I'm certain that if they had a study group that was just males that they would look at each other and say, “this isn't good”. Whereas I think if there was a study group that was all females, they might look at each other and say “this is amazing!”.

When I was a student, sometime ago, there were a handful of women in the program so it would have been very hard to allocate us to various study groups. Today in, in our first year class, it's generally about a third nationwide, maybe about 35% female. I think our first year of class - which is very small this year because of the reduction in students that we accepted because of what was considered to be a financial problem a year ago, which looks like it wasn't a big financial problem right now - I think that we are actually up to 50% female. That's a long answer. The short answer is that what we're talking about it and people are aware of it. And I really don't think that any of my students who are male would not want a woman in their study group.

Alice Evans: That said, to push back a little bit, one thing I observe is that in America there is this consciousness, people are cognizant of bias, both in terms of race and gender, and increasingly careful about what other people say, but that doesn't necessarily need lead to structural or substantive change. Even if people change their terminology, change their discourse, or even if they themselves try to be more egalitarian, we might still see bias. You know Heather Sarsons' paper, highlighting that female co-authors don't receive the credit. That’s still going on, right?

Claudia Goldin: Absolutely. And there's a lot of cheap talk going around. I think that's your point, which is why the bias tests are so good because you have to respond very, very quickly and your brain is, is telling you to respond in one way and the other side of your brain is telling you to respond in the other way, but Heather's work is it is disturbing there. No question.

Alice Evans: What do you think would reduce [bias], apart from talking about it and being cognizant of it? What do you think would reduce gender bias in Economics or any other male-majority workplace?

Claudia Goldin: It depends upon where we think the gender bias is coming from. Some of the gender bias is coming from women themselves, eschewing the field because they don't quite understand what the field is about. Economics is quite different from many of the other fields, in that what people think it's about isn't necessarily what it is about. So yes, it is about the world of finance and what people call capitalism. But it's also well-being. It's about inequality. It's about health. It's about obesity. It's about behavior. It's really an all-encompassing field.

I have seen in my work on undergraduate women in economics that women enter universities thinking that they don't want to major in economics because they don't know what economics is. That's their own inherent bias.

The other part of the bias here is the bias of individuals in a field against women. And how do we reduce that bias? We reduce it by, in some sense, assuring those individuals that all of the individuals who were brought in, who were in underrepresented minority groups are just as good.

I have a paper of mine that is one of my favorites. It’s not very well-known, it's called "the Pollution Theory of Discrimination".

It's about why for long time men have protected various jobs against the entry of women. And this is seen very clearly, for example, in police departments and fire departments over time. It's a model of asymmetric information in which nobody knows, or people on the outside don't know just how difficult it is to be in a particular profession. Being a police officer is difficult. Being a fire-officer is difficult. (I didn't say fire man!) It's difficult. It could be that there's technological change that impacts what is needed to be in these fields. And if you see someone who's an underrepresented minority enter then it's a signal that something technologically reducing has happened in that field. So to the extent that women and underrepresented minorities demonstrate that they are equal, then that would get around, so credentializing, for example, is one way of getting around this problem.

Claudia Goldin's analyses hold true across the world

Alice Evans: So many of your analysis of the U.S. labor market actually ring true when I look at the global history of gender. So your point on pollution, for example, in the 19th century, French printers were very, very careful to police women for entering their profession because they thought that would undermine the status of being a printer. There's strong qualitative evidence supporting this. Similarly, if we look at 1930s Russia, men really didn't want women to enter, because they wanted to retain the status of their profession. So the pollution theory is absolutely true. Every single country I look at, I see the Goldin thesis is replicated!

One of the core arguments in your book is that U.S. women have increasingly been able to achieve “career and family” because of engines of liberation (washing machines), the pill, and also rising demand for skilled labor. And we also see this in East Asia where there's been rapid industrialization, rising access to contraceptives and white goods. And so again, East Asia is the exact Goldin argument. In China, for example, with structural transformation, the gender pay gap amongst professionals is now closing, since 2012.

Also, in England and North America, we had the male breadwinner model. There was a long period in which men were providers and women were staying at home. I think this was in part because there was still so much domestic drudgery and those job queues were long. A century later, in East Asia motherhood didn't cause such a dip in employment. I think that's partly because by the 1960s-1970s technology had advanced so much that they were more able to seize those economic opportunities. So, I just wanted for listeners who are familiar with your work on the USA that Goldin is right for the world!

Claudia Goldin: That's very sweet. So there is a paper that I think is at the heart of what you were just saying that I wrote which was really based on the insights of the great Ester Boserup who was an amazing scholar, and it's called the “the U-shaped female labor force function in economic development and economic history”. Historically the early manufacturing was a real drudgery and dirty and long hours and hot and sweaty and exclude women for lots of reasons. Whereas in development [today], manufacturing often involves electrical appliances and it's not as hot with long hours (although it's often long hours), and it doesn't exclude women to the same degree. So yes, there, there are lots of parallels between history and development, but technological advances - because it's so rapid - alters the impact in development. Absolutely.

Alice Evans: There's another paper that just came out last month again supporting the Goldin theory! Turkey had rapid economic growth after 2012, until 2018. Again, rising female employment! Women sees those economic opportunities. So, Turkey for a long time was going down the U: as agriculture became increasingly capital-intensive and technologically advanced it shed female labor. Then women - because it's a conservative society - responded weekly to growth. But when growth picked up, BOOM! Sorry, just to add that tangent, right now let's get back to the USA!

Subnational heterogeneity: extractives or conservatives?

Why do you think the gender pay got vary so much across the USA? To what extent is it due to some national variation in culture, social conservatism, as opposed to different growth sectors? Like extractives in some areas.

Claudia Goldin: I think there's a combination of the two. I'm glad you've asked this because I was looking at some very recent data put together on state rankings and there are a bunch of interesting anomalies. The first is that yes, it does look as if certain parts of the U.S. South have larger wage gaps than the bluer states of the north. But there are some really interesting anomalies: yes, a state like Louisiana is towards the bottom, but the state of Washington is also pretty low (meaning the gender gap is very, very wide). It's 34th in the U.S., among our states, but it's six in terms of absolute [income]. So as a woman, I would rather be in the state of Washington. But compared to a man, I would want to be in Vermont. But if I'm in Vermont versus Washington, I give up $4,000 a year. So there are complications and the complications are exactly what you said, which is that states are different in what they're producing. So states with what you might call extractive industries or lumber or fracking are going to have the widest differences in earnings between women and men. The state of Washington I think is high for men because there are a lot of pretty high income jobs, as well as the fact that it's also a lumber state. But women are doing awfully well there as well. So the largest gaps aren't always in places that are paying women actually less [in absolute terms].

But let me add one other detail that comes from some very important work by Fran Blau and Larry Kahn (another great economist couple) some time ago showed us something that we all should have known, which is that if you take a country like Sweden, it looks like women are doing so much better than men, that gender gap at the time they were writing, it was smaller, far smaller than in the U.S., but almost a lot of that was due to the fact that the income structure in Sweden was very narrow. So if you took the mean woman in Sweden, she was at a lower percentile in the male distribution than the mean woman in (that's a funny term!) in the U.S., but the entire distribution was just wider.

Why are there more women in management in the USA than Europe?

Alice Evans: In Scandinavia there are very few women in management and in senior professional roles. The USA is really leading the pack in terms of women in senior management. But the USA does seem to have a larger gender pay gap for working class people. I wonder why do you think that is? Why are there more women in management in the USA compared to Scandinavia? What is the USA doing right?

Claudia Goldin: So sometimes putting in the hours gets you a higher position. Outside the U.S.A there's a much higher fraction of part-time work. Among professionals, having part-time work when you're young needn’t destroy your chances of ascent in your profession, but it's also the case - and something that I find fascinating - that individuals who work part-time or work low hours when they're young often don't rev up when they're older, for some reason that would be important to investigate.

And so, because of that, it's not going to be easy to make tenure. If you're part-time, it's not going to be easy to make partner. If you're part time it's not going to be easy to get a big first promotion in management, and we know that European countries for some good reasons have a greater ability to work part-time than in the U.S, but there is a price that gets paid.

Alice Evans: I see. So in Europe where female labor force participation has been increasing, that's partly because more women are working part time, but working part time won’t actually get you to the top.

Claudia Goldin: Yeah. The U.S. in the 1990s was number one in terms of female labor force participation for just about any age group. We're no longer number one. Part of that is because we led in terms of female education and other countries have caught up. Another part of that is that women in the U.S. don't work part time as much and labor force participation does not scale by hours. So if we rank countries in terms of the fraction of the workforce male to female or he full-time, the U.S. would be number two or number three.

Why do women work longer hours in the U.S. than Europe?

Alice Evans: Why is it that U.S. women don't work part-time?

Claudia Goldin: It's a good question. And it may have to do with various country policies. The Netherlands has legislation that was passed to increase women's labor force participation and it's succeeded in that. Let's say you're working five days a week and you have a birth and you want to cut back, or you have some reason that you want to cut back to four days, you are allowed to do that. And your salary at that point is going to be a proportion. So you're going to have a linear relationship, whatever hourly wage implicitly you had, or if your salary, if you were salaried, you, you would just get a four-fifths of it. If individuals then want to work three days, they go work three days. And if you look at hours, first of all, hours are smaller in the Netherlands for everyone, but they're extremely low for women who are employed. The mean is in the twenties.

Alice Evans: Oh wow. To what extent could this reflect Europeans’ greater preference for leisure, as opposed to sort of government legislature? Is it that Americans just love to work, or maximise earnings as much as they possibly can? Is it like cultural preference? Is it that taxes are lower, and so you might as well work as long as you possibly can? It seems like an interesting cultural difference that it's not just about women being more likely to work full-time in the U.S. but that it’s part of a broader phenomenon in which the U.S. workers work longer hours. Right? Those seem like parts of the same thing?

Claudia Goldin: So let's go back to 1831. Alexis [de Tocqueville] comes to the USA to examine the American prison system. And he travels across the U.S. and tells us a tremendous amount about who we are. And one of the things that he says, I'll put it in modern terms, “Americans are workaholics”. But the reason that he said is “because in America, if you work long hours, you can rise up”, you know, straight out of Hamilton, you can rise up.

Alice Evans: But I thought there are there are questions about that. Do you think there's more social mobility in the USA than Europe? And could that explain the differences in hours?

Claudia Goldin: I thought you would have liked this notion that it was traditions that were something that was sort of in the bones of Americans from early on, that somehow we have a system that's so open and, and it's not an elite aristocratic society. And so you can work hard and you can rise up and you can get the fruits of your labor.

Alice Evans: I think that seems true for professional women, that they are working longer hours and they're much more likely to make it into management or senior roles.

Claudia Goldin: So my, my colleague, Dick [Freeman] sometime ago wrote a paper in which he examined this issue and it is the case that Americans work longer hours. Now, one of the possibilities here, he puts the blame on inequality in America for greater hours. There's a question about cause and effect, but this is not an issue that we have solved yet. De Tocqueville told us about it in 1831. And Richard Freeman wrote about it in the 1990s, but I don't think we have a perfect answer: why it is that Americans are still workaholics relative to most Northern European countries?

Alice Evans: Women college graduates in the U.S. are thriving in the professions, they're increasingly closing their gaps in management, but I think that long hours culture seems particularly difficult for working class women who can't afford child care, and are then out-competed by men. Analysis of the U.S. labor market by Joana Duran-Franch suggest that it's working class women leaving the labor market.

Claudia Goldin: in the U.S. hours of work is less for a lower educated workers. I mean, that's one of the big switches that it was once the case that lower educated workers work more hours than higher educated workers. And now higher educated workers work demonstrably longer hours than lower educated workers.

How do workplaces become more female-friendly?

Alice Evans: So you argue that flexible substitutable work would reduce the gender pay gap. Why did that not happen?

Claudia Goldin: But it did happen in certain places. One of the challenges that I set myself was to figure out where there were changes in the workplace. We have a profit system and companies would like to save on high amounts that they pay to workers. So if a company knew that if it had a certain amount of redundancy in their labor, so that if I wanted to take a little bit of time off, I could do it and they could slot someone in, versus if I wanted to take off a little bit of time, I would say to them, “you have to just pay me a tremendous amount more to stay on this job because the hours are so inflexible”. So I was looking for cases in which this happened, and a lot of them are in the field of medicine. These are very, very high paid professionals. To the extent that a physician is going to say, “I am not going to be on call every evening or every weekend”, you would want to have a certain amount of redundancy and a certain amount of ability to trade places. And that has happened in many different areas.

It's also the case that in veterinary medicine, for example, I've found it fascinating that there was a time, not that long ago, when, if your pet (Muffy) got sick at 11 at night, you would call up your veterinarian and see if your veterinarian could come. Now if you call up your veterinarian, you get a message that tells you exactly where the regional animal hospital is. Regional animal hospitals are now all over America and probably all over Europe as well. And what they're doing is they're making the work of the veterinarian in the small animal clinic to be predictable, maybe not a nine to five job, but not a rush on-call weekend vacation job.

Alice Evans: And that's exactly what you wrote about with Pharmacy. Commercial, organizational and technological shifts means that any pharmacist in CVS can access the client's records and they can substitute for each other. That's closed the gender pay gap. And COVID to some extent has spurred similar organizational and technological changes. There's growth in remote work. Employers see it as beneficial, saving building costs and more workers want it because they've got a taste for working from home and they enjoy it. So we now see this shift that could benefit women.

Claudia Goldin: Yeah, it could benefit lots of people and my hope is that it doesn't just benefit women. The last thing we want is a work from home female ghetto because it's always going to be the case that there are inherent biases and the person you get to know, the person that you can really look in their eyes, the person you can tap on the back (hopefully only on the back) is the person you learn to trust, is the person whose name comes to your mind when you're asked, “who should get that contract, who should get that client, whose paper should be published and so on”. It's, it's very important that we do not create a work from home female ghetto. On the other hand, it to the extent that this reduces the need for on-call weekend vacation work it's going to disproportionately benefit individuals with caring responsibilities.

Alice Evans: I think that's such a great point you make about the person who you instinctively think of. There’s a new book called Gaslighted, on the U S extractives industry. It came out last month and they talk about men in big oil and gas going to play golf together: fraternizing, getting to know each other, “Hey, Jeff is a great guy. Jeff helped me out with this”. And the more time that Jeff and Bob spend time together, the more they get to know each other and trust each other. So when Jeff has an idea, Bobby's like, “oh yeah, of course, he's a great guy. Let's go with that”. But when a woman comes in with an idea, they've spent less time together, they don't have that rapport, they’re less confident in her judgment. So it's not that they're necessarily gender bias, but they don't have that same strong, personal trust and connection. So it's not saying that they're an evil person or a bad person, or necessarily sexist against woman in general, but without those strong socializing, interpersonal connections, there’s more of a questioning scepticism about her judgment.

Claudia Goldin: Yeah. I see a lot of young people for whom there's far more gender fluidity and far less of the sort of locker room sentiments that you were in some sense discussing. I go to the gym here, generally I don't see the old fashioned locker room with the guys getting together, patting each other on the back, talking about various clients and everything, but I went to the locker room before COVID and I met someone from the administration with who we would then whisper various things. So, so yes, it is the case that women were excluded from the locker room, but hopefully we're getting our own locker room.

Alice Evans: I want to ask… When we look at pharmacy, when we look at COVID, we look at the rise of women having career and family, so many of these changes have just come about because of skill bias, technological change, or the pandemic throwing things. It's not really that men opened their doors. For example, as you wrote about, firms only removed marriage bars when business was so great that they needed women's labor. It was never the case that women advocated and then male managers had this enlightened self-interest to make their workplaces more female friendly. So many of these dynamics came to seem to come about through commercial shifts.

Claudia Goldin: Yeah, but remember that the biggest change in marriage bars was in a profession that was 90% female and remained 90% female. So the reason for marriage bars, there was not that men were protecting their jobs. It was quite different.

Alice Evans: Oh yes. Employers might not want married women.

Claudia Goldin: Yeah, they had a lot of single women. Oddly enough, the main reason that one can think of is that these school boards didn't want to deal with the husband who came in and said, “you're not paying my, my wife enough. The women would have a strong agent for them. Whereas the single women were, were more compliant.

Alice Evans: Again, those marriage bonds were removed only subject to commercial pressures. So to some extent it's the market or technology, which has driven so much of women's gains in the workplace. We can credit feminist activism for other things like women's participation in politics, abortion, reproductive rights. Feminist activism is important, but if we look at the world of work, so many of the gains seems to be due to commerce, technology et cetera.

Claudia Goldin: Absolutely. Let me just say one other thing about marriage bars, which is that black women teachers were married in the period in which there were marriage bars. We don't have a lot of thick information about exactly where they were. But we do know that from the census that black women who were teachers before the 1950s-60s, they were all in segregated schools. They were married to a far, far greater extent than were white women [teachers]. And so marriage bars didn't really apply in the south, some of these districts may not have had them. One of the reasons was that it was the fraction of women who were black women who were college graduates was not that high. So, so it's exactly, as Alice said, that it was essentially supply and demand. If you reduced the supply even more, you are going not have enough teachers.

Has growing gender equality made it tough to be a man?

Alice Evans: Do you think the rise of women has exacerbated male under-performance in education, male delinquency, and ADHD. Has rising gender quality made it tough to be a man? As we saturate the airwaves with our oestrogen, are we causing problems?

Claudia Goldin: College graduates who are female: it turns out that that's been going on for some time. It rose from the 1950s to the 60s and the crossover point is 1980 that 50% of college graduates or college attendees who are female. I'm often asked about why that's the case. And I know that when high schools were first proliferating, within the U.S., in the early part of the 20th century to the beginnings of the Great Depression, female graduates of high schools in every state, were a larger fraction of the total. They were more than 50% of the total. So there's something else going on then, something about women in college, it goes further back.

And so one then asks, “why didn't women continue in college, in the '20s,'30s, '40s, why did it take so long for them to become 50% [of college graduates]?”. And that may have to do with family bias.

But for reasons that my friends in psychology can answer better than me, women mature earlier, they concentrate better, they have less ADHD. They have fewer behavioral problems. We know neurologically that boys are more challenged and girls have auto immune disorders. Boys have neurological disorders. We know that there are gender differences that are more biological and may influence the ability of individuals to concentrate and to work, the degree to which they can be persistent, to take risks, et cetera.

What are important research priorities?

Alice Evans: Thank you. Okay. I have one final question. Claudia. What do you think we don't know about gender, but you wish we did. What are your questions about? Anything that you'd like to know if PhD students are looking for ideas. What do you suggest?

Claudia Goldin: I suggest that they go to your website because to me, those are the deepest and most fundamental questions which have to do with social interactions, the role of history, the role of traditions and social norms that were all of how individuals live together, and the influence of the older generation on the younger generation.

We see this played out, for example, in East Asia, where there has been rapid economic change, rapid educational change. And we see that that women are who have advanced degrees and who are professionals are not just marrying later, but not getting married, not having kids. Fertility has dropped, almost worldwide, except for Sub-Saharan Africa. This is telling us a lot about women taking more a command. It may also tell us something about wanting to have more quality children than quantity children. But I think much of this is about the interaction between technological change and social norms.

Alice Evans: Thank you!!


Okay, let him crudely summarize the book. So the big argument is that for the first time in human history women now have careers and families. This has been enabled by four key drivers: skill bias, technological change, rising demand, and women have increasingly sees those opportunities, thanks to engines of liberation (white goods, reducing domestic drudgery), the pill (‘the quiet revolution’), and divorce [liberalisation laws], which means that marriage offers less insurance. So now women have increasingly achieved ‘careers and families’, but they thwarted and impeded by men’s greater ability/ and choice to seize long hours (which are well paid and they prefer). Meanwhile, women are staying at home with their children. To close this [gender gap], we need more substitutable, flexible work, which is increasingly happening as a result of the COVID pandemic. That's the book in 200 words, maybe.

The other reason I strongly recommend the book is it is beautifully written. It is honestly the most well-written book in economics/ social science book. It's really a work of art. I don't know how you learn to write like that.

Claudia Goldin: It's from their head and the heart

Alice Evans: Professor Claudia Goldin. Thank you so much.

Claudia Goldin: And thank you so much, Alice. It's been a pleasure.

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