Historical roots of the dual-earner model: Women’s labour force participation in Sweden, 1870–1960

Forskningsoutput: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper

51 Nedladdningar (Pure)


Today, Sweden has one of the highest female labour force participation rates in the developed world, but how deep are the roots of women’s involvement in gainful employment? In this article, I present new estimates of women’s labour force participation rate between 1870 and 1960, the time when the country shifted from a predominantly agrarian economy to an industrial and services-based society. The revised data give a very different pattern from existing series; I find that female participation displays a clear U-shape: falling from the late nineteenth century,reaching a trough in the 1940s, and then starting to rise from the 1960s. Falling employment in agriculture was not balanced out by expanding opportunities in manufacturing, but women’s gainful employment started expanding as the white-collar services sector grew and women’s education increased - following the pattern set out by Goldin’s theory of the U-curve. The male breadwinner period was short and less pronounced in Sweden than in most other countrieshowever. Participation among adult women in the late nineteenth century was above 55 percent, and never fell below 40 percent at the lowest point. My findings lend support to the idea that the dual-earner model of present-day Sweden could be the outcome of a longer historical trajectory.
Antal sidor46
StatusPublished - 2022


NamnLund Papers in Economic History
FörlagDepartment of Economic History, Lund University

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Ekonomisk historia


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