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In a move that could bring one of Harvard's largest departments its first tenured women ever, the University will offer a senior-level post to a University of Pennsylvania economic historian.
The scholar, Claudia D. Goldin, said in an interview last night that she would probably accept the offer from the Economics Department--if the terms of the contract are favorable.
"It's obviously very difficult, particularly in my field, to turn an offer from Harvard down," said Goldin. "Harvard would be a perfect place for me. Cambridge would be a very good place for me."
Goldin, whose latest book Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women will be released in January, said she plans to visit the University later this month to meet department members and discuss a possible contract with Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence.
"She's an outstanding economic historian and a first-rate applied economist," said Bell Professor of Economics Jeffrey G. Williamson, who teaches the department's only course on American economic history. He said Goldin's new book on gender economics "looks like it might be a classic."
The groundbreaking offer, which Williamson said was approved by Bok late last week, comes at a time when the Economics Department has been reviewing its inability to attract women concentrators.
The Economics Department has the lowest proportion of women concentrators in the social sciences at Harvard--two years ago, only 24 percent of its concentrators were female. More than 40 percent of undergraduates at the College are women.
Faculty members have cited a paucity of female role models in the field at Harvard as part of the reason for women's reluctance to enter the concentration. Last year, five of the nearly 70 professors in the department were women, and all were untenured.
"I think it will be very good for Harvard to have a tenured woman, and I'm pleased to be that woman," said Goldin.
"I think that it definitely makes a difference if other women see that a woman has been tenured," said Goldin. "I think in that sense it is meaningful."
Goldin would also bolster the department's offerings in economic history, professors said.
"I study the present through the past," said Goldin. "I'm an economist who studies history to study the origins of modern policy issues and the origins of aspects of the economy that are interest to all of us."
In 1976, Goldin published Urban Slavery in the American South.
Goldin said that for the past 10 years, she has focused on women's economic history. She said her future work will take a broader look at the "evolution of modern labor markets" since the 19th century.
The Harvard Economics Department does not currently offer any courses on gender and economics.
Goldin said she is also interested in comparing current economic trends in developing countries with the patterns of industrialization in 19th-century America.
Goldin graduated from Cornell University in 1967 and received her doctorate at the University of Chicago. After teaching at Princeton and holding a visiting post at Harvard in 1975-'76, Goldin came to Penn, where she was tenured five years ago.
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