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Women and the Economics Profession After World War II

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 12:15 PM - 2:15 PM (EST)

Hosted By: History of Economics Society
  • Chair: Robert W. Dimand, Brock University

Sadie Alexander and Economics in the Interwar Period

Edith Kuiper
State University of New York-New Paltz


The paper will discuss the work of Dr. Sadie Alexander, the first African American woman who received a Ph.D. in Economics. Alexander published work on the status of African Americans in the US. Making grateful use of the recently published Democracy, Race, & Justice: The Speeches and Writings of Sadie T.M. Alexander (2021) edited by Dr. Nina Banks, the paper discusses Alexander’s work against the background of institutional racism in the economics profession at the time in the larger context of Jim Crow laws in the US. Within that context, the paper will also address implicit and more explicit notions of race in economic theory, such as the influence of the work of social Darwinist Herbert Spencer, eugenic notions about race, and the intersectionality of gender and race as it worked out in the economics profession at the time. In the analysis I will make use of Stratification Economics (Darity 2005) and Intersectional Political Economy (Folbre 2020).

The Role of Economists in the Royal Commission on Equal Pay, 1944–1946

Cléo Chassonnery-Zaïgouche
University of Cambridge


The “equal pay for equal work” controversy is both a central political issue and a subject of theoretical discussions within economics. In 1944, a Royal Commission on Equal Pay was settled to examine the equal pay claim for the civil services. The Commission assembled an impressive amount of evidences, testimonies and reports, among which ten memoranda from economists—shorts texts were sent by Philip Sargant Florence, Roy F. Harrod, John R. Hicks, Hubert D. Henderson, Arthur C. Pigou, Joan Robinson, David H. MacGregor, David Ross, Hamilton Whyte, and Barbara Wootton. After the publication of the report in 1946, equal pay for equal work was recommended by the commissioners, but not granted to civil servants, while the extension of the principle to all industry was rejected. The first section of the paper describes the origins, context, and content of the 200-pages report, and the recommendations and dissenting arguments of the commissioners. Section 2 analyses the arguments presented by the ten economists in favor and against the principle of equal pay for equal work. The last section compares the political weight of arguments from economists and from other scientists, including medical doctors, as well as the political arguments deployed by commissioners and politicians—in particular Winston Churchill’s conservative position. The paper shows that economists’ arguments had an impact insofar as they were aligned with status quo.

The Role of Women Economists in the Social Reconstruction of Europe after World War II: The Case of the Organization for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC)

Giulia Zacchia
Sapienza University-Rome
Rebeca Gomez Betancourt
University of Lyon 2-Triangle


The role of women economists during the post-World War II reconstruction of Western Europe is still unknown (as, among others, Vera Cao Pinna and Karin Kock-Lindberg). The aim of the paper is to shed some light on the contribution of the women economists who participate in the social reproduction and reconstruction of Europe through their work in some institutions established after the War. Firstly, we let re-emerge the hidden figures at The Organization for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC), created by the Marshall Plan after the Conference of Sixteen (Conference for European Economic Co-operation) to know who were the women economists who actively contributed to the European recovery program behind the supervision of the General Secretary Robert Marjolin (1948 – 1955). Secondly, we compare their contribution with those women economists who worked at The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) between 1947-1957, when Gunnar Myrdal was the Executive Secretary. We will answer the following questions: Were the women economists more engaged in international cooperation, diplomacy and the distribution of aid? Did they focus on economic planning and forecasting practices? The analysis, with gender lenses, of the post-World War II reconstruction will be also scrutinized aiming to find relevant implications and connections with the current situation of the European recovery and resilience plan for the post Covid-19 pandemic, and the contribution of women economists, mainly in terms of the importance of care economy and equal opportunities.

A Progress Delayed: Women and the AEA before 1970

Ann Mari May
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Robert W. Dimand
Brock University


When the AEA established CSWEP (1971), growing recognition of the paucity of women in economics was given formal recognition. When CSWEP began collecting data on the number of women graduate students and faculty, they identified institutions known as the "Chairman's Group" -- a cartel of 43 schools that produced over 2/3rds of the graduate students in the US. At the time of the first survey of the cartel there were a total of 1,194 faculty, 6% of whom were women (Bartlett 1998, 178); women were also only 12% of graduate students. Fifty years later, gender balance among faculty and students remains elusive.

We examine an under-studied period in the history of women & the economics profession -- the period following WWII, ending with the origination of CSWEP in the early 1970s. During this period, we examine women's membership in the AEA, limitations on their participation in graduate school, and their limited role in higher education as faculty. We examine factors influencing publishing in top journals during this period using a novel data set to examine connections between authors insitutional affiliations and editors of the American Economic Review. This empirical analysis of the "old boy network" allows us to better understand how access to networks would influence success as a faculty member for decades to come.

Examination of what we are calling "the middle years" for women reveals much about the influence of actions taken during and following WWII and their impact on women scholars in the field of economics. Policies such as the GI Bill, efforts on the part of granting agencies to reorient graduate training, along with nepotism laws passed by states all worked to depress women's participation in the new academic framework of the postwar era.
JEL Classifications
  • B2 - History of Economic Thought since 1925
  • A1 - General Economics