5 researchers speaking on a panel with the CWE-GAM Working Paper Series Logo

This paper presents a conceptual Kaleckian macroeconomic model and empirical analysis that link structures of economic growth and development with those of social reproduction and gender inequality. Employment, output and growth are driven by the intersection of class and gender dynamics as well as social reproduction, defined as the time and money it takes to produce, maintain and invest in the labor force. How social reproduction is organized – the extent to which reproduction takes place in the household, public or market sectors, and the gender distribution of the labor in each – influences current aggregate demand and long-run productivity growth. Based on this model and a panel of 122 countries between 1991 and 2015, the paper adopts principal component analysis to generate estimates of social reproduction regime by country, and then uses these estimates to evaluate in growth regression analysis. The main empirical finding is that most countries demonstrate a social reproduction regime which results in both lower and more volatile growth.

James Heintz speaking to audience.

The 45th Eastern Economic Association Annual Meetings were held Feb. 28 – March 2, 2019 in New York City. The “Easterns”, as many economists call them, is also considered the most methodolgically diverse of the regional economics meetings (which come under the umbrella of the national American Economics Association, which holds its annual meeting each January). This seemed like a particularly opportune context in which to present some of the theoretical macroeconomic modeling work that the CWE-GAM has supported, as the Easterns have typically included sessions on gender, and sessions on macroeconomics, but nearly none that bring work on the two topics together. The panel we organized was entitled, “Embedding Gender and Care in Macromodeling,” and included three presentations drawing from papers completed in the first year of the project: (1) Elissa Braunstein on “Estimating Social Reproduction in Economic Growth”; (2) Ramaaa Vasudevan on “Microfinance and the Care Economy”; and (3) James Heintz on “Endogenous Growth, Population Dynamics, and Returns to Scale: Long-Run Macroeconomics when Demography Matters”. It was an interesting discussion, and dovetailed well with other macroeconomically-oriented discussions happening at the meetings, particularly in terms of making care work and the production of labor more visible to macroeconomists.

Baby's hand over mother's hand

Since the 1980s, growth processes have been undermined by inadequate understanding of the interconnection between standard notions of “the economy” and the care economy. The consequences of gender-blind economic policies, and the sorts of growth and distribution dynamics that result, particularly for gender inequalities and care provisioning, have been far reaching and complex. They require a deeper understanding of the ways that the invisibility of unpaid care in macroeconomic policy formulation and analysis have led to persistent underinvestment in care provisioning, reproducing and reconfiguring gender hierarchies.
This is particularly important in the context of the rapidly increasing differentiation across households across the globe in terms of ability to access paid care services for childcare and elderly care, the stalling of women’s participation in the labor market, and the consequent shift in global demographics (aging in some regions, population growth in others). There is almost no work to date on the gendered impact of fiscal and monetary policies that moderate the shift of the provision of care services from households onto the public and private market sectors. Such changes will affect macroeconomic outcomes through their impact on the distribution of women’s time between paid and unpaid labor, the productivity of care work, and the associated impacts on labor force participation rates, savings, pension accumulation, and tax contributions. There are distributional consequences as well, as these processes have differentiated effects by class, race or ethnicity, age and migration status. The current over-reliance on gender-blind representative agent models renders these dynamics invisible.

The following papers offer great introductions to the importance of engendering macroeconomic theory and policy:

Why macroeconomic policy matters for gender equality by James Heintz (UN Women 2015):

This brief synthesizes research findings, analysis and policy recommendations on creating an alternative gender-responsive macroeconomic agenda.

Macroeconomic policy, including fiscal and monetary policy, is often thought of as gender-neutral. But economic policy choices affect women and men differently because of their different positions in the economy, both market (paid) and non-market (unpaid). For instance, budget cuts that reduce social spending may increase the demands on women’s unpaid household labour, while trade liberalization may negatively affect women’s employment in contexts where they are overrepresented in import-competing sectors, such as agricultural food crops. Yet, macroeconomic policies to date have paid scant attention to these issues and have therefore not been conducive to the achievement of gender equality.

Focusing on goals, measurement and policy instruments, this brief lays out the key problems with current macroeconomic policies and provides building blocks for an alternative macroeconomic agenda that is rights-based and gender-responsive.

Engendering Macroeconomic Theory and Policy by Stephanie Seguino (World Bank 2017):

This survey paper reviews the main threads of the subfield of gender and macroeconomic literature. It looks first at research linking gender relations embedded in institutions at every level of the economy, from the household, labor, and credit markets to economic development and growth. It then reviews the reverse causality: the differential impact of macro-level policies on men and women. Following these assessments, the paper proceeds to identify topics for future research, focusing on areas where adding a gender dimension would sharpen macro-economic models and increase the relevance of their results. Given the large body of research available, this review is not exhaustive, but instead, focuses on research publications that have significantly influenced the way we understand the two-way causality between gender and the macroeconomy.