Thursday, February 28, 2013

Feminist economics

If you're friends with Steve Horwitz on facebook you know that there's lots of talk about feminism going on on his page right now, with origins in this BHL post by Sarah Skwire. I don't want to talk about those discussions specifically, but I thought I'd provide a quick review post on feminist economics.

For those of you that don't know, gender economics is one of my two fields for my PhD (the other being labor economics). A lot of gender economics is labor economics, which is one thing I liked about it. It's also concerned with questions of economic disparities which has long been a research interest of mine as it relates to race, so gender was something that I was interested in specializing in as well. It's also a strength of American University's department, so it seemed like something worth taking advantage of.

Feminist economics is generally conceived of a heterodox approach, and this is the sense in which I am least able to be classified as a "feminist economist". As you all know, even when I like the contrinbutions of different heterodoxies I still think the criticisms of mainstream methodology fall a little flat, and feminist critiques are no exception. I don't want to diminish dedicated feminist methodologists, but I would describe their critiques as boilerplate heterodox stuff. I do think that insofar as we're calling feminist methodology just a call for mixed methods and heterodox modeling techniques in addition to solid mainstream methodology I fully support that. Insofar as it's a critique of mainstream methodology I'm less enthusiastic.

OK - methodology and my reservations are out of the way. What do feminist economists work on?

The obvious questions are also some of the most important: gender wage gaps, occupational segregation, discrimination, etc. None of this is foreign to mainstream economists who never heard of feminist economics but were just interested in gender.

In addition to those issues you have a research agenda preoccupied with critical issues that are not usually treated by the mainstream, including care, unpaid work and home production, household bargaining. Household bargaining is pretty darn mainstream, I guess - but it's central to feminist economics. One of the most compelling things about feminist economics is that these central issues make up a lot of our lives, and they are amenable to economic analysis.

All of these are relatively amenable to mainstream economic methods. In fact usually what you have is a critique of one or two assumptions made in the mainstream literature, followed by the application of mainstream thinking (sans that particular assumption) to the problem.

As far as my work in this field, I have a paper I should be submitting next week on time spent in home production over the business cycle. I'm currently writing a paper on occupational segregation in the sciences. I'm also preparing a proposal for a summer fellowship on the labor supply effect of care work (for elderly family members).

The Feminist Economics web page is here.

The American Univeristy gender economics page is here.

Nancy Folbre's website is here.

Stephanie Seguino's website is here.

Frances Woolley's website is here.

1 comment:

  1. You might find this of interest Daniel.

    “Feminist Economics: An Austrian Perspective,” Journal of Economic Methodology, 2 (2), December 1995, pp. 259-279.


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