What does feminist economics have to say about work in the home?

Feminist economics is about a lot more than just women’s rights. It’s a way of looking at the economy for anyone who identifies with the ideas that the economy is influenced by social norms, that there’s a problem with the idea of counting the economy in households, or that we’re motivated by market relations but also by love, power, and obligation. All of these things help us see the economy of our homes in a different light.

A central idea of feminist economics is that what happens in the home is as important for the economy as the marketplace or the firm. Traditionally economics doesn’t really look at any work that goes on at home, and instead focuses on things like employment and markets. However because the work that goes on in the home is predominantly done by women, feminist economics has shined a light on how important the home is for gender relations and the wider economy. 

Feminist economics looks at how the economy is affected by social norms, and how we are motivated by more than simply competition and self interestUsually when we think about the economy, we think about greed and the motivation to make profit and money. Yet feminist economics looks at the wider set of emotions, motivations and values which influence our decisions, and understand humans as not simply competitive but also cooperative beings.

Feminist economics looks at how the study of economics and the history of economic thought is dominated by men. In 2014, women constituted only 12% of American economics professors, and to date there has only been one female winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (Elinor Ostrom).² Feminist economists argue that because the discipline has been dominated by men, the models and theories that have been produced have been biased towards the perspective of men. They therefore question the objective, scientific nature of economics.³

The influence of Feminist Economics is growing, and these ideas are starting to shape government policy in order to bring about a more gender neutral economy.