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EH.R: Women's Work/Response from Folbre
----------------- EH.RES POSTING ----------------- Nancy Folbre asked me to post this message since she is not an EH.Res list subscriber. Carol E. Heim Professor of Economics Department of Economics University of Massachusetts, Amherst _____________________________________________________________ Dear Friends, Here are some alternative ways of thinking about Greg's claim that relative wages show that women were only "half men" or "third men" in preindustrial economies. * maybe discrimination against women took the form of limiting their acquisition of skills through training, apprenticeship and schooling, as well as occupational segregation (rather than lower wages within the same occupation). * maybe the wages women were paid within the job that were nominally the same as men's-- such as "farm laborer" reflect the fact that when they did such work they performed different tasks than men did. I do not mean to imply that men do not, in general, have greater physical strength than women, but rather to emphasize that many of the ways they could compensate for lesser strength through greater skill were denied to them. * maybe one reason that men were willing to establish and defend such forms of exclusion and gender segregation, despite their negative effect on the productivity of other own wives and daughters, was that such actions increased the bargaining power of men was a group, and thereby increased their share of household and social output and personal leisure ( a collective self-interest motive). To put this in more microeconomic terms, maybe women did not choose whether to work in the home or in the labor market on the basis of the marginal product of their labor because they were not the ones who decided how to allocate their own labor. Maybe fathers and husbands deployed women's labor to maximize their own consumption (a function of the size of their share, as well as the level of output). For a formal version of this model see my paper with Elissa Braunstein, "To Honor or Obey: The Patriarch as Residual Claimant" published in Feminist Economics. * maybe another reason is that such forms of patriarchal control over women had positive evolutionary consequences for the societies that developed them (such as increased population growth, leading to technological innovation and/or military strength). *maybe much of the value of women's nonmarket work is social rather than private in nature. That is, it creates public goods that are largely nonexcludable in consumption, such as the labor power of the next generation of workers) and therefore do not enter fully into the private calculus of either women or men. This could help explain why non- market social institutions play such an important role in the organization of reproductive labor. Note that these ways of thinking about the problem are "non-neoclassical" in two respects. First, they suggest the possibility that gender-based collective action takes place. Like any other group that engages in rent-seeking behavior, men as a group can use the state to enforce patriarchal property rights and rules. Their solidarity and ability to coordinate can be further reinforced by strong cultural norms. Second, they suggest that non-market institutions evolve and persist because markets are not the ideal way of organizing all human activities. Greg stated in his posting of November 11 that my "call for more focus on the undervalued labor of women in "domestic" tasks make little sense economically." I think that he is defining economics too narrowly. Thanks! Nancy Folbre Professor of Economics University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA 01003 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com office phone: 413-545-3283 office fax: 413-545-2921 www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~folbre/folbre ------------ FOOTER TO EH.RES POSTING ------------ For information, send the message "info EH.RES" to firstname.lastname@example.org. >