Nobel Prize in Economics at 2023 to Claudia Goldin
Institutional Communication Service
23 October 2023
The 2023 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to US economist Claudia Goldin, a professor at Harvard University "for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes" and for her research on how to achieve gender equality in the workplace. Goldin is the third woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, and was, in 1990, the first woman to be awarded a professorship in the Department of Economics at Harvard University. She is co-director of the Gender in economy study group at the Nber and was director of its Development of the American economy programme from 1989 to 2017.
We interviewed Patricia Funk, Professor at the Faculty of Economics and Francesca Scalici, Head of the USI Equal Opportunities Service.
Patricia Funk, Claudia Goldin has won the Nobel Prize in Economics. What does this achievement mean for those like you who do research in the field of gender economics?
Claudia Goldin, renowned academic at Harvard University, represents a leading figure in the field of gender economics and a source of inspiration for female researchers in all fields of social sciences. From the earliest stages of her career, her research activity has been characterized by careful data collection, the use of innovative methodologies for analysis, and the production of results relevant for economics as well as policy making. The Nobel Prize in Economics represents Claudia’s most remarkable achievement. In fact, she is only the third woman to receive this recognition, following Elinor Ostrom in 2009 and Esther Duflo in 2019, and she is the first women in economics to receive this award individually. Claudia Goldin, however, became a pioneer much earlier: already in 1990, she become the first tenured female professor at Harvard University.
Throughout her career, Claudia Goldin carried out in-depth research on the causes behind gender inequality, analyzing time periods spanning more than two centuries. Her research profoundly affected how economists think about important choices of women’s lives, for example, whether and how much to work. Her studies, however, are not only important for academics doing gender research, but for the academic world more generally. In fact, her research has implications on how to increase female labour force participation, and how to get into an equilibrium that fosters both, economic and social development of countries.
The research conducted by Claudia Goldin has always been very influential for Economics as a science, and this is also reflected in USI’s teachings. For instance, the two courses, "Labour Economics" and " Topics in Development, Public and Gender Economics," which are offered in the Master of Economics, discuss and examine in depth the results and implications of various of Claudia Goldin's studies.
Can you tell us more about Claudia Goldin's research work?
Claudia Goldin won the Nobel Prize “for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes”. Her work has put women at the center of economic research, leading to a better understanding of female labour force participation. In particular, she has examined the roots behind the observed gender inequality, and how women’s decisions about whether and how much to work changed over the course of history. Prior to her studies, women's participation to the labour market was thought to depend positively and linearly on the degree of economic development. Through her research, Claudia Goldin has shown that this is not the case, and that this relationship can be represented by a U-shaped curve. The percentage of women in the labour force declined in the 19th century and started to rise again in the 20th century as a result of innovations such as the birth control pill, which allowed women to postpone child-rearing. In addition to investigating female labor force participation, Claudia Goldin also analyzed the reasons behind the gender wage gap – the fact, that women earn less on average than men. In one of her studies, she shows that the careers of male and female MBA students from a prestigious American university were very similar until the time were the graduates become parents. After parenthood, however, earning trajectories started to diverge (the so called "child penalty"), because women often experienced career breaks and reduced working hours - key determinants of the gender pay gap. In another recent study, she looked more closely at the role of hours worked in explaining the gender pay gap. She showed that companies, which disproportionately reward jobs with long working hours, tend to penalize women. She therefore stresses the key role in offering job flexibility to facilitate work-life balance for women.
How do you think the awarding of the Nobel Prize to Claudia Goldin will influence the academic economic profession and the world of economic research?
This prize will certainly contribute to a greater awareness on the topic of gender research. Researchers already in this field will feel confirmed to continue with their work, and new researchers may choose to work in this field. As a consequence, researchers and students will be exposed to new insights in the field of gender economics, which may lead to a more informed and more aware society.
Last, can you spend a few words about your own research in the field of gender economics?
With pleasure! My research in the latest years has been about women in science. Together with David Card (Berkeley; Nobel Prize Winner in 2021), Stefano DellaVigna (Berkeley) and Nagore Iriberri (University of the Basque Country), we investigated potential hurdles to female scientists. We analyzed two specific domains in science: the publishing process, and the process of rewarding research excellence. Regarding publishing – a prerequisite for becoming an academic - we found that female scientists had to submit slightly better papers to publish in top economics journals (see Card et al., 2020). This is indicative of a publishing hurdle, and hopefully our study increased awareness of it and helped to reduce this potential bias. Regarding rewarding research excellence, we investigated whether women and men with similar CV’s had the same chance to receive a prize (the Nobel Prize is the most important award, but because of the small number of awardees, we analyze the following three very prestigious awards in Economics: getting elected as Econometric Society fellow, becoming member of the National Academy of Science, or getting elected into the American Academy of Arts and Science). Reassuringly, we find that awarding societies have become more gender equal over time. Historically, women had a low chance to win an award (even those with top CV’s). Over time though, the share of female prize winners has steadily increased, and today, many societies demonstrate a preference for gender diversity, meaning that all else equal, they prefer to give the award to the minority gender (see Card et al, 2022 and Card et al, 2023). In an ongoing project (with my previous co-author Nagore Iriberri and Nicole Venus, PhD student at USI), we scrutinize representation of women in editorial boards. As many economic journals stress the need for gender diversity in editorial boards, we investigate whether the share of female editors is in line with the share of female researchers having an adequate CV to become editor. With a large-scale survey, we further try to understand which are the challenges of actual editors (time, competence, reaction of authors etc.) and whether there are any gender differences in it.
- Card, DellaVigna, Funk and Iriberri, 2020: “Are Referees and Editors in Economics Gender Neutral”, the Quarterly Journal of Economics
- Card, DellaVigna, Funk and Iriberri, 2022: “Gender Differences in Peer Recognition by Economists”, Econometrica
- Card, DellaVigna, Funk and Iriberri, 2023: “Gender Gaps at the Academies”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Francesca Scalici, what is your reaction to the awarding of this prize and what implications does it have for gender equality in the world of work?
The awarding of the Nobel Prize in Economics 2023 represents an important step in the field of gender studies and gender equality in the world of work, not only because, as Professor Funk mentioned, she is the third woman in the history of the Nobel Prize to receive this award, but above all because, for the first time, the Nobel Prize has been awarded to a person who is concerned with gender issues and their impact on our society. It is an important milestone but also an important message to society, a starting point from which we can learn many lessons. Attention to this issue therefore remains strong and we wish to highlight the fact that the dynamics of women's participation in the labour market and the resulting gender inequalities, equal pay, the 'child penalty' and work-life balance are not issues of interest only to public institutions or employers, or even worse, only to women, but are real issues that find validation and scientific basis in academic research, and the research conducted by Professor Claudia Goldin and by Professor Funk at USI are proof of this.
How is the USI Equal Opportunities Service active in these areas?
The Equal Opportunities Service is active in a number of areas, with various programmes aimed at supporting careers for both women and others. We work to promote work-life balance for both USI staff and students by offering measures designed to support, including financial support, work-life balance; we support academic and non-academic careers through transparent and gender-sensitive recruitment processes, mentoring programmes, both academic and professional, and Shadowing; we offer training workshops and courses aimed at encouraging well-being in the world of work; we promote research by awarding an annual Equal Opportunities Award to a master's thesis, doctoral dissertation or scientific article on equality and diversity issues; we carry out monitoring that analyses the institution's situation from the point of view of gender equality and reconciliation needs (Gender Budgeting Report); we offer numerous awareness-raising events by collaborating with the various USI Services and local authorities. The feminist strike of 14 June 2023 was, also in USI, an opportunity to address and raise awareness on important issues of gender, equal pay, work-life balance and sexism in the workplace.