Marriage Bars: Discrimination Against Married Women Workers, 1920's to 1950's

48 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2004 Last revised: 12 Jul 2010

See all articles by Claudia Goldin

Claudia Goldin

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

Date Written: October 1988

Abstract

Modern personnel practices, social consensus, and the Depression acted in concert to delay the emergence of married women in the American economy through an institution known as the "marriage bar." Marriage bars were policies adopted by firms and local school boards, from about the early 1900's to 1950, to fire single women when they married and not to hire married women. I explore their determinants using firm-level data from 1931 and 1940 and find they are associated with promotion from within, tenure-based salaries, and other modern personnel practices. The marriage bar, which had at its height affected 751 of all local school boards and more than 50% of all office workers, was virtually abandoned in the 1950's when the cost of limiting labor supply greatly increased.

Suggested Citation

Goldin, Claudia, Marriage Bars: Discrimination Against Married Women Workers, 1920's to 1950's (October 1988). NBER Working Paper No. w2747. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=334317

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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