RDC Researcher wins Nobel Prize

Harvard University economist Dr. Claudia Goldin, winner of the 2023 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, utilized U.S. Census Bureau data that were available as a result of her fruitful relationship with the Boston Federal Statistical Research Data Center (FSRDC).

The prize was awarded to Dr. Goldin on October 9 for her work illuminating the wage disparity over time between men and women in the labor market. Some of Dr. Goldin’s recent research utilized decennial census data and the Longitudinal Employer Household Dynamics (LEHD), data she accessed through the FSRDC, showcasing how valuable the partnership is between the Census Bureau and researchers.

“The unique relationship fostered by the FSRDCs enables incredible scholarly and often very important research. Dr. Goldin’s work is a great example of what was envisioned in the FSRDCs’ creation,” said Nate Ramsey, director of the FSRDC program. Dr. Goldin worked with the Boston FSRDC, which is set to celebrate its 30th anniversary next year and was the first research data center established.

The Census Bureau operates 33 Federal Statistical Research Data Centers. The FSRDCs are important networks between federal statistical agencies and leading research institutions designed to provide secure environments supporting qualified researchers using restricted-access data while protecting respondent confidentiality. Access to these data can lead to important and groundbreaking work like Dr. Goldin’s research.

Goldin’s Nobel Prize Winning Research Focuses on Gender Earnings Pay Gap

One component of Dr. Goldin’s Nobel Prize winning research agenda began in 2017 inside the FSRDCs. Dr. Goldin and other FSRDC scholars—including Wellesley College’s Sari Kerr and Dartmouth College’s Claudia Olivetti—researched and published findings on the gender earnings gap based on LEHD and decennial census data.

Their work showed the gap in women’s pay with male counterparts begins to grow when they marry and when they have children and continues to do so, widening sharply as they move through their 20s and 30s into their 40s. (Two separate studies looked at this issue of the price of being female. One showed the impact of marriage on women; the other showed the impact of becoming a parent.)

LEHD labor supply and earnings data revealed that both labor supply and earnings gaps grow significantly after the arrival of the first child. Over time, mothers catch up to nonmothers, but neither group ever catches up to men – and earnings grow most rapidly for fathers. This disparity appeared in all professions the researchers studied but was more acute in some areas, such as the field of finance.

“Dr. Goldin’s work shows how the FSRDCs play a crucial role in providing access into topics like the nation’s economy,” said Ramsey. “Through these relationships, we’re hoping to connect even more researchers with the FSRDCs who will similarly see the enormous value of using Census Bureau data in their work.”

By Jane Callen

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