Economists engaged in research today are both blessed and cursed by a volume of data, a battery of techniques, and facilities for research that are immense and numerous. The current period in economics is, indeed, the "age of quantification" as George Stigler stated in his presidential address before the American Economic Association in December, 1964. The significance of the terms "blessed" and "cursed" are probably obvious. The research economist has in some cases inexhaustible sources of data, for as time passes and the ever growing number of survey and census data come rolling in, the sources can be literally endless with respect to one's lifetime. He has electronic computers that produce more statistical calculations than a team of researchers can digest. These represent great opportunities, but they are opportunities that can smother us in their largess, and the idea of a completed research project becomes at times mocking. One saving factor in this situation is the great increase in the number of research economists, which means that the "burdens" of the opportunities for research are, at least, being widely distributed.
The study in this book of the economic determinants of the labor force participation of married women illustrates these points. A theoretical model was developed that, however serviceable, is susceptible to many additional refinements. A large amount of data from a variety of sources was used, but only a small part of what was available at the time of my study (1962-63) and certainly a smaller part of what is currently available. The econometric or statistical techniques employed in this study, although somewhat advanced over traditional studies, are of a moderate degree of sophistication by modern standards. Moreover, the techniques used are themselves subject to any number of new and different applications--yet another variable to be added, another type of transformation or a different functional form to be tried, and so on. Finally, a growing number of economists are working on the central question of this study--the supply of labor of the household--and thus the task of reviewing the literature steadily becomes more elusive.
This book, therefore, may be considered a chapter in the ongoing research in the field. The structure of this study is such that the components complement each other, and insights gleaned from one type of data source are tested on another type of source. The most original part of the work probably lies in the analysis of the labor force participation . . .