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Claudia Goldin Wins the Nobel Prize in Economics

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Claudia Goldin Nobel Prize Winner Photo By Bryce Vickmark

Congratulations to Harvard University Press author Claudia Goldin, who has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics. Her groundbreaking work as an economic historian and labor economist has advanced our understanding of inequality and women’s participation in the workforce.

Goldin’s book, The Race Between Education and Technology, co-authored with her husband Lawrence Katz, is an incisive history of American education—its great success in creating prosperity and equality during the 20th century and its relative decline since the 1970s.

Author - Editorial Staff

Date - 25 October 2023

Time to read - 3 min

Goldin is the third woman to receive the economics prize and the only female solo winner since it was first awarded in 1969. She is the Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University and former director of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Development of the American Economy program.

“Claudia Goldin’s pathbreaking research, deeply grounded in history yet hugely relevant to the present, is a model of what social science should be,” says Nobel laureate and New York Times Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman. “This is truly a Nobel to celebrate.”

Claudia Goldin sits in front of a red backdrop with the Harvard logo and speaks to the media about the Nobel Prize
Claudia Goldin spoke with the media after being awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for her work identifying drivers of gender differences in the labor market. Photo: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Examining Inequality in America

Goldin was honored for providing the first comprehensive account of women’s earnings and labor market participation through the centuries. Her pioneering research on gender inequality in work and family life shows how women went from being passive actors in the household and labor market to active participants who defined their fundamental identity and societal worth through their careers. As female education rose alongside technological advances such as refrigerators and the birth control pill, American society was profoundly transformed.

The impact of education and technology on economic growth has been a central theme in Goldin’s work. It is the driving force behind the book she wrote with her husband, Lawrence Katz, The Race Between Education and Technology, which the Financial Times calls “A powerful explanation for what has driven changes in income inequality…and solutions for addressing it.”

Goldin and Katz argue that for most of the 20th century, the United States led the world in democratizing education, resulting in unprecedented expansion of the U.S. economy and a more equitable distribution of its rewards. Instead of ending education at age 12 or 13, which was the global norm, the American education system offered huge gains to its people through the spread of high schools that were “free, secular, gender neutral, open, and forgiving,” says Goldin.

“As Goldin and Katz have argued, the 20th century was the American century in large part because it was the human-capital century. Education—knowledge—can help people live better by allowing them to learn from past errors and make new discoveries.”

—David Leonhardt, The New York Times

The mid-1970s marked a turning point in the United States, as educational stagnation and rising income inequality began to emerge. Goldin and Katz argue that widespread prosperity depends on rising education levels. As technology advances, we need more and better-educated graduates in our workforce. Expanding education’s reach and improving its quality appears to be the most promising investment a society can make.

“Nations can no longer afford to be left behind in educating their people because today’s technologies are produced by well-educated countries and are designed for an educated labor force,” says Goldin.

Claudia Goldin And Lawrence Katz The Race Between Education And Technology