Archive for May 2008
Feminist economist extraordinaire Susan Feiner is finally blogging. According to her bio, the professor of women’s studies and economics at the University of Southern Maine is apparently “now writing almost exclusively for a wider pubic audience.”
The site is relatively new, but she’s already made several convincing points about the value of this little sub-discipline. Check out this witty transcript of an imaginary panel discussion between women’s studies and economics, and a continuation on feminist fiscal policy.
WS: “Basically you’re saying that economists’ professional training ensures that they are “socialized” to a world view in which markets are right and government intervention is wrong? Whatever outcomes we observe in the world are the result of individual choices?”
E: That’s right. This makes the connection to women’s studies all the more important. Economics is really out of it these days. The phrase “faith based” comes to mind.
File this under things that will become more important as the population ages. I’ve been reading through a paper from the most recent issue of Feminist Economics about informal carers in the UK (gated). Carmichael et al define an informal carer as someone who “look[s] after relatives or friends who need extra support because of age, physical or learning disability, or illness.”
They come at the problem from quantitative and qualitative directions, with some predictable but important results:
Among the 182 people employed (either full- or part-time) prior to caring over half (ninety-four) were no longer in paid employment when they completed the questionnaire. Among the 131 people working in full-time employment prior to caring only thirty-six were still in full-time employment when they completed the questionnaire. It is also notable that among those still working, the majority, 73 percent, were employed in the public sector where employment practices are conceivably more flexible and by implication more carer friendly.
They go on to control for age, gender, human capital, and co-residency, and find statistically significant effects on rates of employment and part-time work.
Why is this a feminist issue? Well, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that 60 per cent of informal carers are women. They’re also likely to care for longer hours and longer periods of time than men.
It’s worth remembering that as social services are cut (like home care under Harris) it’s often women who pick up the slack, at the expense of their own aspirations and financial independence. And as the baby boom ages, we’re going to have to make some tough choices about where and how we care for the elderly. The carers surveyed had some ideas on what would help them stay in employment:
…eighty-four questionnaire respondents said that flexible working practices, including flexible hours, home working, part-time work, and short-term leave options, would help working carers. Many of these carers thought that employers needed more information about the needs of carers and that this would encourage them to make simple changes to their working practices that could improve carers’ lives.
Kathy G. posts from Chicago about “politics, economics, feminism, labor, culture, ideas.” She’s more likely than I to cover American politics, and as a PhD student her analysis is a bit more sophisticated than mine. Worth checking out if you’re interested in any of the above.
Things have been quiet around here for the last few days, partly because I’ve been working on a little project. If you check the top of your screen, you’ll notice a new navigation tab titled Course Outlines.
Whenever I pick up a new academic interest, I poke around the internet looking for syllabi to guide my reading. I figure I’m not the only one. So if you click over, you’ll see that I’ve linked, with brief descriptions, to nearly thirty course outlines that relate to gender and economics.
I’ll update the page periodically. Whether you’re a student looking for further reading, or an instructor designing a new course, a quick look around might help get you started.
A few evolutionary psychologists have gone off the rails of late – one of my favourite bloggers has taken to calling them “evo-psychos.” So I got a giggle out of this send-up of bad evolutionary psychology and the gullible reporters who breathlessly relay it: “Belief in Evolutionary Psychology May Be Hardwired, Study Says.”
We shouldn’t let a few psychologists turn us off the rest of evolutionary thought though, especially when some of it is happening within economics. I’ve been meaning to pick up Michael Shermer‘s recent The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics.
It was reviewed in The Globe and Mail recently (gated) by Richard Parker, whose own most recent book, about John Kenneth Galbraith, I’ve been enjoying. In fact, it’s possible that the review is better than the book. (Quick tip: the review is gated now, but if you hit Google’s “cached” button, you’ll find the full version for another day or so.) First, there’s a depressing observation:
So many economics schools have fallen flat, so many economic predictions have proved wrong, so many economic policy prescriptions have produced disastrous consequences, that these days economics is a discipline under siege. So demoralized are economists themselves that nearly two-thirds, according to an American Economic Association survey, have decided that their profession is completely “over-mathematicized and unrelated to the real world.”
But then Parker reminds us why we should care about economics anyway:
The answer, as you surely must understand, is that their theories are as central to our world, for better and worse, as theology was to the Middle Ages. Their policy conclusions end up framing some of the biggest issues of our times, even when their models and arguments seem as esoteric as counting angels on the head of a pin. Globalization. Trade deficits. Budget deficits. Wages. Poverty. CEO pay. The unions. Inequality. Taxes. Energy policy. Health care. Inflation. Recession. Privatization. Deregulation. When economics is done badly, we’re all at risk of becoming its victims; when it’s done well, the promise is that we’ll share in its reward.
If you happen to be in Vancouver early this November, Antigone Magazine is hosting The 2008 Vancouver Women’s Economic Security Summit. It’s not an exclusively academic conference, and I gather they’re looking for people to help with planning and organizing sessions. I can’t find any internet presence for the summit, but here is part of the email I received:
We are currently looking for expressions of interest for participation from women’s organizations or groups that deal with issues relating to women’s economic security. Please let us know by June 5th if your group might be interested in attending or having a delegation at the meeting or if you would like a representative from your organization to be part of our planning committee. The planning committee will be having its first meeting in mid-July. Upon your expression of interest, please let us know what themes your organization would like to be considered during the summit.
And here are some suggested topics:
- women’s low-income housing
- human trafficking
- The wage gap
- Domestic violence
- Gender budgeting
- Single mothers
- Financial literacy for women
Photo by keepitsurreal.
I’m taking an economic history course focused on Karl Polanyi, especially The Great Transformation. Last class, my professor implied that it was a dense, tough text, so I had myself steeled for an evening of endurance reading. It turns out that Polanyi is a joy – this man has a sense of rhythm. This is from the first chapter:
While in the first part of the century constitutionalism was banned and the Holy Alliance suppressed freedom in the name of peace, during the other half – and again in the name of peace – constitutions were foisted upon turbulent despots by business-minded bankers. Thus under varying forms and ever-shifting ideologies – sometimes in the name of progress and liberty, sometimes by the authority of the throne and the altar, sometimes by grace of the stock exchange and the checkbook, sometimes by corruption and bribery, sometimes by moral argument and enlightened appeal, sometimes by the broadside and the bayonet – one and the same result was attained: peace was preserved.
At times, I wish we still wrote this way, with semicolons and a sense of importance.