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Professor Maria Stanfors on Nobel Economics prize laureate Claudia Goldin: ”A great inspiration”

Claudia Goldin, at the doctoral degree conferment ceremony in the Lund Cathedral in May 2011. Photo: Anna Bank.
The image in the newspaper Sydsvenskan from the 2011 doctoral degree conferment ceremony focuses on the young wreath bearers. In what appears to be sheer coincidence; the future Economics prize winner was also captured in the photograph. Photo: Anna Bank

In 2011, Harvard Professor Claudia Goldin became an honorary doctor at Lund University School of Economics and Management. Her honorary doctorate was conferred along with the other new doctors in Lund Cathedral. In 2023, she becomes the first female researcher ever to solely, in their own name, receive the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. Maria Stanfors is a Lund researcher who has been inspired by – and had contact with – Goldin more or less throughout her research career.

Claudia Goldin has visited Lund and the School of Economics and Management Lund University a number of times, both before and after receiving her title of honorary doctor. Among other things, she has hosted seminars, taken part in conferences and sat on the advisory committee of the Centre for Economic Demography. But it all started with a transatlantic email to a young researcher...

A conference and an email

“Claudia Goldin got in touch with me after I’d been in the USA around the turn of the Millenium to present my first ever paper at a conference. I wrote about women’s participation in education and the labour market, as well as about the long-term development of the salary gap, having been inspired by Goldin. Yet at that time, her research was not on any of our reading lists. That changed when I became a course director and these days, she is a given,” says Maria Stanfors, today a deputy dean and professor of economic history at Lund University School of Economics and Management. 

That first email was the beginning of an enduring exchange between Maria Stanfors and Claudia Goldin; between Lund University School of Economics and Management and Harvard University.

“She and her colleague (also spouse, economist Lawrence F. Katz) visited Lund for the first time in the spring of 2000, giving a seminar which then became an influential paper about the significance of the contraceptive pill for women’s education and careers. Since then, she has returned to Lund many times. She has meant a lot to me and is a good friend to the School of Economics and Management,” says Maria Stanfors.

“A big deal”

Professor Goldin is one of today’s leading economic historians, whose output provides excellent examples of how it is possible to combine economic theory, quantitative methods and various empirical materials and thereby better understand the present day through an interpretation of the past. 

“Claudia Goldin winning the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences as a solo recipient is a big deal, as is the boldness in rewarding an empirical researcher who has focussed on historical processes and women. This means a lot to a field that has not always been the most prestigious in economics. She is a bright star, but the issues for which she received the prize – gender differences in the labour market, women choosing between work and family, discrimination – have seldom been prioritised in economics and economic history,” says Maria Stanfors, and continues:

“Claudia Goldin really is a person of science in the true sense. She combines theories with empiricism, scours through archives to find new data and works with extending existing theories and developing new ones. Often, she has chosen areas where empiricism exists, investigated related phenomena and tested hypotheses in such a way that they form a greater whole together. In so doing, she has been able both to pose and to answer big questions. These include gender differences in labour market outcomes – are the differences due to discrimination and if so, what kind of discrimination?”

Watch: Video with Maria Stanfors, commenting on Claudia Goldin and the Prize (Youtube)

What is an honorary doctor?

The degree is often bestowed upon a long-time friend or collaborator of a university. It is a way of honoring a distinguished  person’s contributions to a specific field.

Honorary doctors of Lund University School of Economics and Management (LUSEM) include, for example Bo Lundgren, Hans Rausing and Ingvar Kamprad. Claudia Goldin is also an honorary doctor at LUSEM. She was awarded the ”Nobel Prize in Economics” in 2023. She is not employed at Lund University, but she is considered an inspiration and a long-time friend by several of our researchers.

Honorary doctors