Stevenson salutes her mentor, Economics Nobel Prize winner Claudia Goldin

October 10, 2023

Noting that the field of economics is still a male-dominated profession with women comprising only 1 in 8 full professors in 2022, Ford School economics professor Betsey Stevenson hailed the ”revolutionary work” of her mentor and dissertation advisor, Harvard professor Claudia Goldin, who was just awarded the 2023 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Stevenson pointed to a few of Goldin’s early papers such as “The Work and Wages of Single Women, 1870 to 1920” and “The Economic Status of Women in the Early Republic” that were published in the 1970s.

“Goldin was documenting the changing roles of women in society at a time when many male economists just didn’t care. Today, it might seem crazy that male economists once thought women were mostly irrelevant to important things like the macroeconomy. But if it is confusing to you, that’s because of Claudia Goldin and the army of economists that she has trained to see the world differently,” Stevenson writes.

“For many years, Goldin had to go it alone. When it came to the macroeconomy, women were seen as side players, secondary earners, a novelty not worth studying. As an economist, she saw the forces of supply and demand as interwoven with identity and social structure and documented the way those connections shaped women’s choices,” she writes. “As identity and structure shifted, so too did those choices. She systematically documented these changes for decades, even as her colleagues in the profession remained essentially blind to half the population.”

On a personal note, Stevenson reports, “Claudia Goldin was one of my dissertation advisers. I like to think that I’ve been one of the soldiers she trained to think about work and family differently. I often wonder whether I would have stayed with economics if I hadn’t had the good fortune to fall under her tutelage. In that way, she has advanced women in economics, student by student, generation by generation, encouraging them to stick with the field and building advocates for a more inclusive vision of economics and the economy.”

In winning the Nobel Prize, Goldin’s influence is enshrined. ”Governments around the globe recognize that policy that shapes families also shapes the economy. Students around the world study women’s labor force behavior as essential to understanding the economy.”

“This public celebration of her life’s work is not only a moment to appreciate what Goldin has done, but a moment for all women to celebrate; it’s another step toward full citizenship. And I hope it will inspire a new generation of young women to find economics appealing — and inspire the profession to find even more ways to include them” Stevenson concludes.

Goldin Took Women’s Careers From Economic Sideshow to Mainstream, Bloomberg Opinion/Washington Post, October 10, 2023