The Work and Wages of Single Women: 1870 to 1920
13 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2001 Last revised: 13 Jul 2010
Date Written: July 1979
Single women in the U.S. dominated the female labor force from 1870 to 1920. Data on the home life and working conditions of women in 1888 and 1907 enable the estimation of earnings functions. Work in the manufacturing sector for these women was task oriented and payment was frequently by the piece. Earnings rose steeply with experience and peaked early; learning was mainly on-the-job. Sex segregation of employment is seen as a partial product of the method of payment, and the early termination of human capital investment was a function of the life-cycle labor force participation of these women, although the role of the family is also critical.
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