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Updated: October 9, 2023, at 8:15 p.m.
Harvard Economics professor Claudia D. Goldin won the 2023 Nobel Prize in economics, the Swedish Academy announced Monday morning.
Goldin, who is the first Harvard professor to win a Nobel Prize since 2019, won the Prize “for having advanced our understanding of women’s labour market outcomes.”
The first woman to receive tenure in the Economics Department, Goldin has worked on nine books, with a 10th set to release later this year. She is the 12th Harvard professor to win a Nobel Prize in economics, and the first woman.
Goldin is also the third woman to ever win a Nobel Prize in economics, and the first woman to not share the award with another person.
“It means a tremendous amount,” Goldin said in an interview with The Crimson Monday morning. “Big ideas and long-term change matters, and I am delighted.”
Goldin’s research focuses on women in the labor market, where she has “trawled the archives and collected over 200 years of data from the U.S., allowing her to demonstrate how and why gender differences in earnings and employment rates have changed over time.”
Goldin found that the participation of women in the labor market during the 19th and 20th centuries followed a U-shaped curve, largely as a result of the onset of the Industrial Revolution and changing social norms for women.
Her work also showed that access to contraception in the 20th century allowed more women the opportunity to pursue an education and a career.
“It’s taken a long time for me to do this type of work,” Goldin said. “Most importantly is that I’m a teacher, and that I learned from my students and that I could not possibly do research without also doing teaching.”
“Teaching is the handmaiden of research,” she added. “People should realize that I not only produce knowledge, but I disseminate knowledge, and by doing that I learned from undergraduates and graduate students who might teach, so I thank them very much.”
In a Monday interview, Edward L. Glaeser, the chair of Harvard’s Economics Department, hailed the announcement, noting that he was among those who nominated her for the award.
“I would be thrilled if it were any of my faculty colleagues getting a Nobel Prize, but I’m particularly thrilled that Claudia Goldin is winning a prize,” he said. “I cannot think of a worthier recipient right now than Claudia.”
“Just read Claudia Goldin’s work,” he added. “Your life will be better because you’ve done so.”
After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, Goldin taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Princeton University, and the University of Pennsylvania before arriving at Harvard in 1990.
“Understanding women’s role in the labour is important for society,” said Jakob Svensson, chair of the Committee for the Prize in Economic Sciences, in Monday’s press release. “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.”
At a Monday afternoon press conference at One Brattle Square, Goldin was introduced by Glaeser, who said that it was “a great day for the Harvard Economics Department.”
Goldin, who began by thanking her mentors, students, and husband, Harvard Economics professor Lawrence F. Katz, also acknowledged major women in economics that she’s worked with in the past.
“The increase of women in economics is important for a host of reasons,” Goldin said. “For me personally it’s been important because I have had the most wonderful co-authors, people with whom I am best friends, to work with.”
Goldin said she has worked “very hard to change the representation of women in economics” during her time at Harvard and her tenure as president of the American Economic Association.
She said more men than women express interest in economics when starting college, adding that people often have the misconception that the field of economics is solely about finance.
“We say, ‘You know what? Economics is about people. It’s about inequality. It’s about the female labor force. It’s about health, it’s about economic development, it’s about well-being,’” she said. “And they say, ‘Really? I didn’t know that.’”
As for what’s next, Goldin said she would continue work based on her research paper titled “Why Women Won” on the history of women’s rights that coincidentally released this morning.
“I will build on that,” she said, “and maybe write another book.”
—Staff writer Rahem D. Hamid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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