Maximum Hours Legislation and Female Employment in the 1920s: a Reasse Ssment

29 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2004

See all articles by Claudia Goldin

Claudia Goldin

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: June 1986

Abstract

The causes and consequences of state maximum hours laws for female workers, passed from the mid-1800s to the 1920s, are explored and are found to differ from a recent reinterpretation. Although maximum hours legislation reduced scheduled hours in 1920, the impact was minimal and it operated equally for men. Legislation affecting only women was symptomatic of a general desire by labor for lower hours, and these lower hours were achieved in the tight, and otherwise special, World War I labor market -- hours of work declined substantially for most workers in the second decade of this century. Most importantly, the restrictiveness of the legislation had no effect on the employment share of women in manufacturing. The legislation was, on the contrary, associated with a positive impact on the employment share of women in sales (another covered sector). Finally, labor force participation rates of women across cities during the 1920s were strongly and negatively correlated with shorter hours of work per day, consistent with one time-series explanation for the increase in female market work. These results are consistent with a labor market model in which scheduled hours of work per day are negatively related to days worked per week, and that assumption is justified using previously untapped data on actual hours, scheduled hours, and days worked for women in the covered sectors.

Suggested Citation

Goldin, Claudia, Maximum Hours Legislation and Female Employment in the 1920s: a Reasse Ssment (June 1986). NBER Working Paper No. w1949. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=259415

Claudia Goldin (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-3934 (Phone)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-588-0356 (Phone)
617-868-2742 (Fax)

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