Feminist economics

I view feminist economics as one of the more useful parts of the heterodoxy, perhaps because of its empirical component.  I see a few contributions:

1. Repeated insistence that household production is important and that it is lacking in gdp figures.  This isn’t new anymore but someone has to bang the drum.

2. Criticizing the "dominant patriarchal" assumptions behind standard models of the family, such as Gary Becker’s.  The Rotten Kid Theorem is interesting as pure theory but it has received too much attention as an actual model of the family.  The father is not always a benevolent manipulator, concerned most of all with collective welfare.

3. Insisting that economics is so often done "in a male way."  Now I happen to like the "male way of doing economics" — abstract, analytically cutting, and debate-intense.   But I’m happy to see someone linking the method to some general traits of men; put all the feminist excess aside, at some level the point is well-taken.

4. In the history of economic thought, Hazel Kyrk and Margaret Reid are worth reading, there are probably others as well.  "Home Economics" should never have been so cut off from regular economics.

5. Gender differences in analyzing the effects of policy.  Sweden, no matter what you think of it in absolute terms, is a better deal for women than for men.  Overall women are more risk-averse and less interested in accumulating large sums of wealth.  The Soviet Union was less bad for women than for men.  Many governmental health care systems are better geared toward the needs of women (e.g., easy access to pre-natal care) than for men, who require massive medical innovation to fix their heart attacks.  And so on.  These points don’t receive enough attention.

Feminist economics even has its own journal.

The down side?  I’ve never had much real world exposure to movement advocates (here is one interview).  I fear I would be turned off by their posturing, their sympathy for comparable worth, and their lack of a hardheaded willingness to recognize politically incorrect truths about gender or for that matter capitalism.  They are too skeptical about what is good in the Chicago-based economic way of thinking.  No way is feminist economics a viable alternative to the mainstream, but again improvement is possible through critique at the margins.


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