The Rising (and then Declining) Significance of Gender

48 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2002 Last revised: 20 Nov 2009

See all articles by Claudia Goldin

Claudia Goldin

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

Date Written: April 2002


In the past two decades gender pay differences have narrowed considerably and a declining significance of gender has pervaded the labor market in numerous ways. This paper contends that in the first several decades of the twentieth century there was a rising significance of gender. The emergence of gender distinctions accompanied several important changes in the economy including the rise of white-collar work for women and increases in women's educational attainment. Firms adopted policies not to hire women in particular occupations and to exclude men from other occupations. A model of discrimination is developed in which men oppose the hiring of women into certain positions. The assumptions of the model break down when women acquire known and verifiable credentials. The shift from the rising to the declining significance of gender may have involved such a change.

Suggested Citation

Goldin, Claudia, The Rising (and then Declining) Significance of Gender (April 2002). NBER Working Paper No. w8915. Available at SSRN:

Claudia Goldin (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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