NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

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

Claudia Goldin

NBER Working Paper No. 2747
Issued in October 1988
NBER Program(s):   DAE

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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w2747

Published: Rosovsky, H., D. Landes, P. Higgonet (eds.) Favorites of Fortune: Technology, Growth and Economic Development Since the Industrial Revolution. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991.

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