What ever happened to “Feminist economics”?

I suspect most of you have followed (to varying degrees) the recent controversies over gender hostility in economics.  What I find striking is that hardly anyone has mentioned the movement known as “Feminist economics.”  And yes that is a formal thing, here is Wikipedia on “Feminist economics”:

Feminist economics is the critical study of economics including its methodology, epistemology, history and empirical research, attempting to overcome androcentric (male and patriarchal) biases. It focuses on topics of particular relevance to women, such as care work or occupational segregation (exclusion of women and minorities from certain fields); deficiencies of economic models, such as disregarding intra-household bargaining; new forms of data collection and measurement such as the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM), and more gender-aware theories such as the capabilities approach.[1] Feminist economics ultimately seeks to produce a more gender inclusive economics.

There is much more to a very long, thoughtful, and well-documented entry, and feminist economics has been a recognized field or subfield since at least the early 1990s.  There is an entire refereed journal called…Feminist Economics.  There is a significant International Association for Feminist Economics.

Obviously “feminist economics” is a diverse area, but frequently I have seen the claim made that the very nature of economics keeps out women.  It is claimed there is too much emphasis on male modes of production, and sometimes also “male ways of thinking,” and thus economics must itself first reform before it has any chance at achieving gender parity.  There is also a common tendency to criticize Becker’s and other neoclassical theories of the family for reflecting so many implicit, underlying “male” assumptions about how families work or are supposed to work.

So yes, there is plenty awareness of overt discrimination, but writers coming from this approach see a lot of the problems as quite structural, and embedded in how economics is done.  It’s not only the attitudes of some of the male jerks.

Now you may or may not agree, or also you might feel uncomfortable with some of the levels of generalization you find in talk of “male ways of [xxxx].”  Still, many of those in Feminist economics see the structural point as very important.

It is striking to me that most of the major contributors to Feminist economics are women.  And from what I can tell, virtually all of you are ignoring them, even though we have been debating their main issue for weeks now, and they have been at this for decades.

Perhaps you are unaware of them.  The only very recent coverage I have seen is this Edwin Hadas piece, but still it doesn’t mention “Feminist economics” by name.  Here is a short, good Economist piece by S.K. (Soumaya Keynes?)  from March 2016.

The biases run deeper than you think, and they’re not just about gender discrimination.  We’ve set up a profession with super-high entry barriers for clearing the “this deserves my attention” hurdle (“top journals,” “top schools,” you can go on down the list), and then we’re befuddled when there is so much other collateral damage along the way.


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