NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

From the Valley to the Summit: The Quiet Revolution that Transformed Women's Work

Claudia Goldin

NBER Working Paper No. 10335
Issued in March 2004
NBER Program(s):   DAE   LS

Meaningful discussions about women at the top' can take place today only because a quiet revolution occurred about thirty years ago. The transformation was startlingly rapid and was accomplished by the unwitting foot soldiers of an upheaval that transformed the workforce. It can be seen in a number of social and economic indicators. Sharp breaks are apparent in data on labor market expectations, college graduation rates, professional degrees, labor force participation rates, and the age at first marriage. Turning points are also evident in most of the series for college majors and occupations. Inflection or break points in almost all of these series occur from the late 1960s to the early 1970s and for cohorts born during the 1940s. Whatever the precise reasons for change, a great divide in college-graduate women's lives and employment occurred about 35 years ago. Previously, women who reached the peaks often made solo climbs and symbolized that women, contrary to conventional wisdom, could achieve greatness. But real change demanded a march by the masses from the valley to the summit.' That march began with cohorts born in the late 1940s.

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Published: Goldin, Claudia. "The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women's Employment, Education, And Family," American Economic Review, 2006, v96(2,May), 1-21.

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