What do and don’t the censuses tell us about married women’s work?

Gustafscenen Session 2: Labour, living standards and inequality organized by Erik Bengtsson, Kathryn Gary, Tobias Karlsson, Malin Nilsson and Jakob Molinder


Kelsey Marleen Mol


Previous research has stressed the limitations of using the historical censuses’ enumeration on women’s work, mainly concerning the fact that married women were by and large solely defined as housewives and their labor force participation was concealed. This consideration is primarily based off of research on the enumerations of main occupations, which was the most common occupational rubric in the national censuses. A few censuses, however, were particularly detailed, containing rubrics that may supplement our knowledge about women’s work. Such a census is the Swedish national census of 1930. It contains relatively hard to come by information on sideline occupations, income, and wealth, which can provide information on income-oriented work, beyond the housewife title. By analyzing the particularly rich information in the 1930 census in the general context of censuses’ typical limitations and objectives, this study explores “what do and don’t the censuses tell us about married women’s work?”. Answers to this question will rely on descriptive statistics that summarize the occupational and income enumerations, as well as methods that investigate the ways individual characteristics (e.g., socio-economic background, geographical background, educational level, age, etc.) were associated with having received various details on labor force participation. The paper contributes to existing research by nuancing the narrative of the censuses’ inadequate enumeration, by providing insight into the 1930 Swedish census and women’s work around 1930, and by enlightening future studies if having an occupation or income, or, rather, having this enumerated, was more typical for married women with certain characteristics.


No PDF available.