Economic Woman

Econometrics, gender, equity and more.

Archive for June 2008

Happy Pride!

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image Pride in Toronto is a pretty big deal, spread out over more than a week and apparently involving a million people. Today I marched, and checked out Mariko Tamaki, the fabulous Ember Swift, uh huh her and The Hidden Cameras.

The organizing committee brings in great entertainment, and it’s all free. A lot of straight folks have caught on, and they come for the concerts as well as the usual have-your-picture-taken-with-a-drag-queen novelty. I think it’s good for the community, because while the straight public might come to see Melanie C. for free, they’re also exposed to us at our most outrageous.

Also, I’ve noticed an interesting thing about food prices at Pride. Usually special events involve very high prices for food, drink, etc., but Pride doesn’t seem to clamp down on street vendor competition the way so many festivals do. All the convenience stores, hot dog stands and take-out restaurants in the gaybourhood do well during Pride, and there are some pretty good deals to be had – today I noticed one restaurant advertising sushi, spring rolls and a pop for $4.99.

Of course, within the official beer gardens, drinks are ridiculous, and the most popular restaurants on Church street bring in special “Pride menus” and enforce a $10 per person minimum, as a sort of rent for on sought-after tables.

Written by Allison

29 June 2008 at 1:35 am

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Labour takes a stab at workplace inequity

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Feministe has a link round up on women and work. The Times has a number of recent articles on similar topics: here are some strangely context-free statistics on the wage gap. I think it was supposed to be a sidebar for this article, about a the Equalities Bill. I’m no expert, but that Bill seems sort of hastily patched together. Take this stab at affirmative action:

The section likely to prove the most controversial encourages companies to favour female and ethnic minorities candidates if there is tiebreak for a job vacancy. Critics say that this will discriminate against white men – supporters of the measure say that the balance is already tipped in white men’s favour.

That criticism is daft, of course, but maybe I can make a couple from the other end. How do we define a “tiebreak” in something as amorphous and instinct-driven as hiring? Even if we can, what if, god forbid, there is more than one “minority” (a stupid and inaccurate label, by the way) tied? This sort of vague policy will just never be implemented. Maybe affirmative action is called for, but it needs to be better thought out…

Finally, another Times article speculates that new programs to help mothers stay in the workplace may be cut in the current “economic turmoil.” (An aside – it’s funny how the media has to talk itself in spirals describing this maybe-it’s-a-recession, especially in Canada where it’s barely shown up in our economic indicators at all.)

And with that, I am bored of writing women in the corporate world. Help me out, dear readers: what would you like to learn about next?

Written by Allison

26 June 2008 at 11:29 am

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Wall Street is a bumpy ride for women

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Jessica Wakeman writes about women on Wall Street as two high-profile female executives are fired. Despite the negative headline, it’s kind of a good news/bad news story. The bad:

They may make up 46% of the workforce, but women held only 15.4% of Fortune 500 corporate officer positions in 2007… According to Gail Evans, former executive vice president of CNN (TWC) and author of the book Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman. “There’s so few women [that] when one of them gets fired [from an executive position], the percentage drops 10 percent.”

What’s the good news? The consensus is that these two executives deserved to be let go for straightforward professional reasons. And as far as I can tell, Wakeman is relieved that the coverage of the demotions wasn’t sexist:

The headlines were all about the Lehman firings, not about the “lady executive” getting the axe.

(Hat tip to Feministing.)

Written by Allison

24 June 2008 at 10:29 am

Paid family leave

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In case you’ve missed it, Kathy of The G Spot has a post up on The American Prospect’s Tapped about the economics of paid family leave. I haven’t had a chance to go over it in detail, but it looks exhaustive and interesting. 

Written by Allison

23 June 2008 at 6:00 pm

The doublethink of personal opportunity

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This is my third post in response to a single post from weeks ago, but bear with me – I have three unrelated thoughts. In a reaction to this blog and feminist economics generally, Peter Boettke articulates a common reaction to identity politics:

Women, like men, let alone minorities, should not accept any artificial barriers to pursuing their goals.  If people get in your way, don’t let them — either side-step them or run them over.  Don’t ever let others define you, you define yourself; you are in control of your own destiny.  The cream always rises, is what my father always taught us.

I think this is something we need to believe on some level in order to function. Certainly, as I work towards my goals it helps to imagine that I am in control of my own destiny, that my “cream” will rise if I work hard enough. But the social scientist in me also sees barriers, institutional and otherwise, which put others like me (women, queer women) at a disadvantage.

I’d suggest that, broadly, people on the left are more likely to experience this disconnect. That got me to wondering if this is why conservatives are happier than leftists. Lo and behold, that study’s authors argued something similar.

Written by Allison

22 June 2008 at 11:36 pm

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On collision

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In the Austrian Economists post that I just linked to, Peter Boettke eventually concludes: “economics and feminism do not collide.” My tagline has attracted a fair amount of attention, as was intended, I suppose. So I’d like to say that I roughly agree with Boettke on this one.

If I thought that the discipline of economics and the politics of feminism were fundamentally opposed, I’d have difficulty practicing both. Note that I’m defining feminism as a political orientation right now – if you’d like to argue that it’s a social science in and of itself, well that feminism may well be incompatible with economics…)

The tagline is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. I think that economists and feminists often collide. But when we make an effort to listen to each other, I think both sides benefit. Or, more whimsically, you could say that when economics and feminism collide little sparks of insight spray everywhere.

I should also say that there has been remarkably little of the wrong sort of collision in these comment threads since Economic Woman started up a few months back. Thanks for that, folks. It’s great fun reading your responses.

Written by Allison

22 June 2008 at 10:57 pm

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Boettke and McCloskey on feminist economics

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Here’s something I’ve been meaning to link to for awhile. Last month, The Austrian Economists’ Peter Boettke linked to this site with some friendly, if sceptical, thoughts on feminist economics:

I ask “don’t demand curves slope downward regardless of gender or sexual orientation?”  For example, hasn’t there been significant studies over the years that have attempted to control for various factors (e.g., occupational choice, job tenure, educational choice, etc.) in the wage gap, and once these are taking into account the gap closes significantly.

I did not respond at the time, in part because I was a little starstruck – the post mentions me alongside Deirdre McCloskey – and also because I figure this blog is a sort of long, gradual response. But briefly, controlling for the factors Boettke mentions does close the gap somewhat, but not completely, as I’ve written before. In a broader sense, we can also be interested in why women make occupational and educational choices differently than men, and what welfare effects result.

In any case, the post is worth reading, and so are the comments. McCloskey herself has dropped in with better points than I could have made:

Sure, the technical points about Max U go on holding regardless of who wields the bordered Hessian matrix. And to push one step back from that formal point, sure, demand curves slope down, regardless of gender. [...]

But as some here have suggested, there’s a wider context, yes? In The Bourgeois Virtues I suggest that an economics that works only with the virtue of Prudence is going to, sometimes, get into trouble. Not always, but sometimes, and those some times are pretty important. A feminist economics admits other virtues and vices beyond Prudence Only. With economic results.

Written by Allison

22 June 2008 at 10:36 pm

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The blogger’s dilemma

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image Readers want there to be a new post every time they click over to the site. Otherwise, their bandwidth, time and mouse clicks have been wasted. If they frequently find no new material, they will eventually stop coming back.

Bloggers, for whatever reason, want their readers to come back, but bloggers’ time, relevant material and good ideas are scarce. Short, linky posts – the blogger’s aggregation of other peoples’ thoughts – are relatively cheap, as are brief contributions to ongoing debates in the blogosphere.

A small number of widely-read bloggers provide a valuable service in aggregating the best of the internet. They skim the boring parts of the web so that we don’t have to. For small-time bloggers, it is also relatively cheap to glean the best links from others’ linky posts, and regurgitate those. But many of the readers of small-time blogs have already seen that material on the big-time blogs. Debates, on the other hand, can certainly be interesting, but with too little background they can also alienate the casual reader.

We’re at a bad equilibrium. Since I usually refuse to post those lists of links, and since my time is finite, especially right now, as I prepare for the upcoming G8 Summit, you, gentle reader, waste your time and energy checking Economic Woman for new material. I am sorry about that. Might I suggest an RSS reader? I recently started using Google Reader again, and it’s been great fun, even though I know that most of my 300 unread posts probably link to the same two New York Times articles.

Written by Allison

14 June 2008 at 11:18 pm

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The division of feminism and economics

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When economists see a division of labour, they are likely to assume that it is a mutually beneficial arrangement, unless there is evidence to the contrary. When it comes to the division of labour at home – who goes to work, who takes on childcare and housework – feminists are apt to assume that an egalitarian arrangement is preferable.

Most of us are also likely to say that feminism is about choice, including the right to reject or choose traditional gender roles, but that is often the second thought, and it is paired with theories about how women are forced into traditional roles because of the lack of affordable childcare, etc.

These are huge generalizations, obviously, but I think different starting points on the division of labour cause much of the friction between feminists and economists, at least when it comes to policy. If you associate the division of labour with oppression, it’s tough to communicate with someone who believes that it is humanity’s greatest innovation, the path to efficiency and wealth.

This Times article (also blogged here and here) rounding up some research on the mechanics and emotional health of gay vs. straight marriage, would seem to support the feminist side:

Notably, same-sex relationships, whether between men or women, were far more egalitarian than heterosexual ones. [...] While the gay and lesbian couples had about the same rate of conflict as the heterosexual ones, they appeared to have more relationship satisfaction, suggesting that the inequality of opposite-sex relationships can take a toll.

The funny thing about egalitarian relationships is how elusive they are in real life. The other night, my partner and I were talking about the empowered, feminist women in our lives who have chosen to cook and clean for the men in their lives. We circled back, predictably, to choice: “She’s an emancipated, right-on woman, she knows what she’s doing.”

Earlier that afternoon, I read this section of Tyler Cowen’s Discover Your Inner Economist. (I know, I’m late to the bandwagon – my university library doesn’t buy popular economics books, and I have trouble convincing myself to buy hardcover books.) Cowen thinks we should try not to bring up economics too often within the family.

Silence that economist. Zip his mouth. Send him away to write his blog. Do not let him subject family decisions to ‘the optimal theory of principal-agent renegotiation-proof coalitions.’ [...] The more our families feel we are violating our commitments to care, the harder the reception that economic advice will receive.

I know that Cowen isn’t really talking about feminist economics here – he means that we shouldn’t justify leaving the toilet seat up with economics. But are “emancipated, right-on women” taking this too far? Do they avoid talking about how much housework they do because they are honouring their “commitments to care”?

This is not my area of expertise – after all, I don’t live with any men – but it’s something I wonder about. Is asking your boyfriend to do more dishes an isolated, personal event, or does it help to reference social science? Feminists have gotten very good at making the political personal, but do we make the personal political enough?

Written by Allison

14 June 2008 at 10:36 pm

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From urban studies to economics

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This has been all over the internet so I don’t remember where I first saw it, but I’ve been having fun playing with Walk Score. This little tool can take any address, use Google to search for services and entertainment nearby, and come up with a score from zero to 100 that roughly reflects how pedestrian-friendly the area is.

It’s surprisingly accurate – my west end Toronto neighbourhood scores very well, as does the house nearby where I grew up. My old apartment in Edinburgh’s Old Town (pictured below, with New Town in the background) is more walkable still, and Mississauga City Centre, a local suburban business district, barely breaks fifty despite a great concentration of goods and services at Square One, a huge shopping centre. (It’s a long, windswept walk between building complexes.)

P1000886

Before switching to economics, I was an urban studies major, so this sort of thing interests me. But watch while I connect it to feminist economics using one of Susan Feiner‘s recent posts! She references Krugman in writing about the perils of pedestrian-unfriendly neighbourhood, and the isolating effect they can have on women who work at home.

45 years ago American feminist Betty Friedan saw how suburban isolation undermined women’s health and restricted women’s choices. [...] Friedan’s analysis was pooh-poohed as a “women’s” issue. Coming soon to a station near you: $5.00/gallon gas. VOILLA!

Sprawling suburbs are a national (and therefore not gendered) problem. Feminist ways of thinking reveal new sides of way more issues than equal pay, child care, and reproductive choice. 10 minutes ago would you have realized how critically women’s lives are affected by the supply of mass transit? Until we expand, upgrade and diversify the nation’s transportation network women will be stuck in isolated homes, far from shops, schools, and workplaces.

Read the rest of the post here.

Written by Allison

7 June 2008 at 10:00 am

Foreign Policy on women’s lives around the world

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image Chris Blattman, my favourite development econ blogger, posts about the Foreign Policy’s list of the worst places to be a woman. The list is divided by region, and includes Haiti, Yemen, Sierra Leone, Papua New Guinea, and Moldova. They’re looking at the share of women in government, female-to-male income ratio, and female literacy. Blattman adds his own good point:

They forgot one place: the Fortune 500. That group includes just 12 female CEOs, or about 2 percent. Of course, that number is improving, going up by one female CEO each year for the past few years. So we should hit the 50 percent mark by 2246.

Here’s a couple Worldmapper cartograms that represent similar data. The first is the worldwide distribution of men’s income; the second, women’s income.

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Written by Allison

6 June 2008 at 12:10 pm

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The mom salary, or lack thereof

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Salary.com has estimated this year’s unpaid “mom salary” at nearly $117,000. Every year around mother’s day, this study estimates the value of stay-at-home mothers using a rudimentary time use survey paired with data on how much it would cost to hire a professional cook, laundry machine operator, janitor, psychologist and more. One of the reasons that the salary hits six figures is that in this imaginary world, parents are paid for overtime!

What you won’t read in most newspaper articles is that Salary.com also estimates a salary for additional work done by working mothers, and it’s a substantial $68,405 a year.

They also estimate the value of stay at home fathers, at slightly less than their female counterparts:

Despite dad’s long hours at home, the research indicates that mothers still typically assume a disproportionate share of the workload at home, even if they’re working outside the home. The average stay-at-home dad reported working 80.2 hours per week in his role while stay-at-home moms reported an average of 91.8 hours per week.

Commenters on Feministing have been revising that initial $117,000 downwards by confusing the value of informal caregiving services with the caregiver’s opportunity cost – in this case, how much stay at home parents would make if they left home and re-entered the formal sector. Needless to say, that’s an entirely different issue.

All of this is a pop culture approach to something that feminist scholars have acknowledged for years – women do a whole lot of informal, unpaid labour. With that in mind, I went looking for a scholarly equivalent of this study, but strangely enough I couldn’t find it. There are studies on hours of work – remember this post – but there must be some child care equivalent of this study on the economic value of informal caregiving for the disabled, right? Perhaps one of you can help me out in comments.

Written by Allison

5 June 2008 at 12:31 pm

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When econ classes get in the way of econ blogging

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I’m on a brief hiatus due to tomorrow’s statistics test. After that, I will be back. In the meantime, my latest Tyee video column is up – this time it’s about online parents and baby videos.

I’ve also added a new widget, inspired by Chris Blattman. If you’re reading this on the site, then up on your right you’ll notice a “Shared Items” heading. The links underneath are the most recent postings on my Google Reader Shared Items RSS feed. I don’t like to clutter up the blog with a lot of off-topic links or links that I don’t have anything to add to, but if you’d like to see an eclectic collection of what I’m reading on any given day, you can also view my shared items on their own page, or subscribe to the separate RSS feed.

Written by Allison

3 June 2008 at 11:45 am

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