Women play diverse and critical roles in the economies of both developing and developed nations. Yet, they often remain severely constrained from realizing their full personal and economic potential as a result of insufficient access to formal financial services, work, and education, disempowering social norms, and gender-biased laws and institutions. New theoretical and empirical research describing these various constraints and evaluating promising interventions to remove them or empower women to overcome them is emerging. However, the research among economists on these topics is often siloed in different sub-fields of economics and there are few venues for explicitly anchoring research discussions on the topics of women and gender issues more generally.
To promote research on the role of gender in both developing and developed economies, NBER, with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has formed a Study Group on Gender in the Economy. This initiative will bring together researchers from different fields of economics who are working on these topics to share and discuss current research findings. By connecting the gender issues of today in the developed world to their historical evolution and to their counterparts in the developing world, the Study Group aims to understand the evolution of gender differences across varying “states of the world” and to identify promising directions for future research.
Harvard University and NBER
Northwestern University and NBER
Dartmouth College and NBER
The Study Group will emphasize a number of central topics regarding Gender in the Economy. These include:
1. Victimization, Vulnerability, and Violence against Women. One of the basic differences between men and women is men’s often monopoly on violence. Topics include domestic violence; how women’s geographic mobility is hindered and its economic consequences; patriarchy historically considered; greater financial security as a means to reduce victimization and violence; bargaining in households; harassment and violence in the workplace.
2. Household Finance Issues. Household finance is an expansive subject area in developing and developed nations. The topics include the role of mobile money; bargaining in households; financial literacy of women; access to bank accounts and credit; women’s empowerment as flowing from financial security; the impact of women’s property rights for financial investment decisions; control over money in household bargaining and marital dissolution.
3. Women’s Wellbeing and Children’s Health. Women now live a lot longer than do men in most parts of the world. They didn’t always, and in some parts of the world today, they still do not. Topics here include maternal mortality, contraception, abortion (particularly sex selective), and AIDS. Access to family planning services cuts across all nations and time periods. Changes in health risks due to women’s increased economic roles and more risky behaviors are also important.
4. Women and Education across the World. An irony in the study of gender differences is the remarkable increase in women’s levels of higher education at the same time that gender differences in earnings and employment remain substantial. Still, many of the world’s women struggle to obtain minimal levels of education. This expansive subject area includes returns to education, reasons for barriers to girl’s education in some nations, how gender gaps in the labor market are responding to relative skill levels, and college majors of women and men.
5. U-Shaped Female Labor Force Function across Economic Development and History. It is well known that across a host of nations, market (paid) employment of women traces out a U-shape. But nations often get stuck at the lower level due to persistent social norms, traditions, stigmas, and other ways in which women are limited in their ability to grate out of the home and into the world of paid employment. Topics include barriers to labor force participation and employment, paid versus unpaid labor, self-employment, social norms, structural change.
6. Gender Earnings Gaps. The gap between men’s and women’s earnings exists across the income distribution and the education distribution. But the gap is generally far greater for higher earners and for those with more education. Yet, the economic hardship is generally greater at the bottom. Topics include the role of time controllability and compensating differentials; discrimination in pay in a host of circumstances; women’s bargaining skills; how the gender gap feeds into women’s vulnerability; how firm-level and political leadership impact these gaps; feedback mechanisms between household’s decisions and the labor market.
7. Women-Centered Policies, Child-Centered Policies, and Missing Fathers. Much of the world (even developing nations) has embraced paid parental leave. Early education in enabling women’s work and benefitting children is an important topic throughout the world. Interdependencies between these two policies and their political economy are important to study. Topics include parental leave policy, especially programs that incentivize fathers to use them; firm-level policies, especially in developed countries. In developing countries, possible topics include how migration and decline in multi-generational living arrangements affect childcare and women’s work and the rise of market-based childcare services.