Measuring Skill: Gender, Race, and Occupations in the Early-20th Century U.S. Census

Cristina Groeger, Lake Forest College

Implicit in most occupational classification schemes is a hierarchy of skill required to perform certain types of work. This hierarchy has been deeply shaped by racial, ethnic, and gender norms that have shifted over time. This paper examines the construction of "skill" around several white collar and service occupations in U.S. census records between 1880-1940. By examining occupations at both the top and bottom of the economic hierarchy, this paper explores how skill was understood relationally across occupations. Using additional qualitative sources, this paper also contextualizes the changing meaning of skill during an era of dramatic labor market shifts, mass immigration, and new gendered patterns of work.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 49. The Data of Labor History