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Level B1

Gender gap researcher wins the Nobel Prize in Economics

American economist Claudia Goldin received the Nobel Prize in Economics 2023. Her groundbreaking research is fundamental in understanding gender inequalities in the labour market and uncovering the causes behind the gender pay gap.

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On December 10, the Nobel Prizes were given out during a solemn ceremony at Stockholm’s Concert Hall. The Nobels are awarded in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace, and they are considered the most prestigious prizes in their respective fields. Administered by the Nobel Foundation, according to the will of Swedish inventor and entrepreneur Alfred Nobel, they were first conferred in 1901. In 1969, Sweden’s central bank introduced a sixth prize in economic sciences. Technically, this is not a Nobel Prize because it was not part of Alfred Nobel’s original will. Nevertheless, it follows a similar process of selection and award, and it is commonly known as the Nobel Prize in Economics. This year, its recipient was American economist Claudia Goldin.

A detective of economics

Goldin was born in New York City in 1946. When she was young, she was not interested in economics. “I wanted to be a detective,” she confessed. In high school she liked biology and thought she could become a scientist and do her detective work under a microscope. She entered university to study microbiology, but she also attended a class in economics. That’s when she became fascinated by the subject. In the end, she abandoned microbiology and graduated in economics, but she never stopped considering herself a detective. She even wrote a piece titled The Economist as Detective. “The world is filled with mysteries,” she said, “and somehow I have this incredible optimistic view that I can figure them out.”

Investigating the female labour market

Goldin’s research, which won her the Nobel Prize, deals with the history of women’s participation in the American labour market. She analysed over 200 years of data, bringing together economics and economic history. Goldin showed that women worked more before the start of industrialization, mostly in agriculture. However, as industrialization progressed, it became more difficult for women to find work in new professions while raising a family. In the early 1900s, only 20% of women had paid work, and the percentage dropped to 5% among married women. This is because there were laws and corporate policies that limited access to jobs to women who were married, pregnant or with children.

The problem with expectations

Another key element Goldin identified was that of expectations. In the past, many women planned their future based on their mothers’ occupations. Because their mothers didn’t have careers or highly qualified jobs, they believed they were destined to a similar fate. Consequently, many didn’t go to university and settled for housework or menial jobs. Women’s expectations began to match those of men in the 1970s. From this point onwards, women were increasingly inclined to attend university in order to pursue more diverse and highly-qualified careers. Today, women’s education levels are higher than men’s in most high-income countries. Despite this, on average women earn less than men. Why?

The reasons for today’s pay gap

Goldin’s ‘detective work’ has helped explain the remaining gap. While income differences are minimal between men and women at the start of their careers, this changes with the arrival of their first child. Women tend to bear greater responsibility for childcare, and this becomes challenging in today’s work culture where employers expect employees to be always available. Employers also tend to favour workers who do not have to take maternity leave, and they pay more for those who work longer hours, including weekends. Thanks to Goldin’s groundbreaking research, we now know what needs to be done to resolve the gender pay gap. The private sector needs to move away from high-demand jobs for the few to flexible arrangements for all, and it should provide support for career breaks. Also, men need to be more involved in childcare responsibilities, and the state should support this with policies such as extended paternity leave and affordable childcare.

USEFUL LINKS

1) Here’s the official page of the Nobel Prize in Economics 2023:
https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/economic-sciences/2023/summary/
At the bottom of the page, check out the illustrations that explain Goldin’s findings, such as this one:
https://www.nobelprize.org/uploads/2023/10/fig4_ek_en_23.pdf

2) Here is Claudia Goldin’s official webpage:
https://scholar.harvard.edu/goldin

3) Read this review of one of Claudia Goldin’s books, ‘Career and Family’:
https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/fandd/issues/2022/03/book-review-greedy-work-donner

4) What is the gender pay gap and what are its causes, consequences and possible solutions? Read this analysis.
https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/what-is-the-gender-pay-gap/

5) Check out the European Parliament’s page on the gender pay gap:
https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/20200109STO69925/understanding-the-gender-pay-gap-definition-and-causes
COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the correct alternative.


1. Establishing prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace was the idea of
a. the Nobel Foundation.
b. Swedish inventor Alfred Nobel.
c. Sweden’s central bank.

2. The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences was introduced by
a. the Nobel Foundation.
b. the central bank of Sweden.
c. Alfred Nobel.

3. When she was in high school, Claudia Goldin wanted to become
a. a scientist.
b. a police detective.
c. an economist.

4. According to Goldin’s studies, with the rise of industrialization, women
a. found employment in agriculture.
b. stopped working altogether.
c. had difficulties finding work.

5. At the beginning of the 20th century, 20% of American women
a. had a salary.
b. were married.
c. were unable to find work.

6. Goldin discovered that in the past, many women didn’t pursue a career because
a. they followed their mothers’ example.
b. they were discouraged by their mothers.
c. they preferred to take care of their families.

7. Today, women in high-income countries are, on average,
a. more educated than men.
b. less educated than men.
c. as educated as men.

8. According to Goldin’s research, income differences between men and women change
a. at the beginning of their careers.
b. upon marriage.
c. when they become parents.

9. The gender pay gap can be reduced or eliminated if
a. women work more on weekends.
b. employers provide support for career breaks.
c. women bear greater responsibility for childcare.

10. Men can participate more in raising their children if
a. women work more.
b. they can take longer paternity leaves.
c. they have a higher salary.


VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Put the verbs and nouns in the right form, if necessary.


                          will  *  to confer  *  recipient  *  to figure out  *  expectation  *  menial 
                                     *  to pursue  *  to bear  *  groundbreaking  *  affordable

1. Her research is ……………………………………. because it provides new and useful insights.
2. The university  ……………………………………. an honorary degree on a famous scientist.
3. I have high  ……………………………………. for this film because I read a rave review.
4. All the  ……………………………………. of the Nobels receive their prizes from the hands of the king of Sweden.
5. Washing dishes is a typical  ……………………………………. task.
6. I don’t want branded clothes because they are too expensive. I’m looking for clothes at  ……………………………………. prices.
7. Before she died, she wrote her  ……………………………………. in which she specified that all her money be donated to charity.
8. The policeman is  ……………………………………. a suspect seen fleeing from the scene of the crime.
9. We know the barriers that prevent equal pay between men and women. Now we need  ……………………………………. how to remove them.
10. My job is very stressful; I have heavy responsibilities to  ……………………………………. .


GRAMMAR – Closed compound words

3) Complete the sentences with closed compound words. To form the correct words, pick one word from the first list, and one from the second.


ground  *  week  *  new  *  mile  *  grand  *  work  *  work  *  break  *  baby  *  smart  *  head

parents  *  ache  *  ends  *  stone  *  born  *  breaking  *  phone  *  down  *  sitter  *  force  *  place

Example: Her research is groundbreaking. It will revolutionize her field of study.

1. People who have very stressful jobs risk having a nervous  ……………………………………. .
2. Not all parents can afford to pay a  ……………………………………. to look after their children.
3. I don’t think it’s fair to ask people to work on  ……………………………………. .
4. Equal pay will be an important  ……………………………………. in achieving gender equality.
5. Many women are still discriminated against in the  ……………………………………. .
6. About 10% of the  ……………………………………. is unemployed.
7. You can manage many of your work duties using your  ……………………………………. .
8. They just had a child. Their  ……………………………………. is a boy!
9. All four of my  ……………………………………. are still alive.
10. I have a terrible  …………………………………….. I need an aspirin!


SHORT ESSAY

4) Have you ever witnessed, or been a victim of, gender discrimination? Describe. (60-80 words)

5) What would you like to be when you grow up? What difficulties do you think you will face in achieving your career goals? (60-80 words)



DEBATE

6) Pair up with one of your classmates and look at the proposition below; one of you will argue in favour of it and one of you against it.

Proposition: Raising children is more important than having a career.

(Carlo Dellonte)
(Image: Shutterstock)

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