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New Thinking in Feminist Economics
Research from Julie A. Nelson
November 2012

GDAE Senior Research Associate Julie A. Nelson, a leading feminist theorist, suggests that a feminist perspective is essential for understanding issues such as financial crisis, climate change, and behavioral economics. Two working papers and one updated paper address these issues:

Are Women Really More Risk-Averse than Men?
Drawing on literatures in statistics and cognitive science, this essay discusses the important difference between drawing conclusions based on statistical inference and broader generalization about gender characteristics. Paying attention to empirical evidence that challenges subjective cultural beliefs about sex and risk has implications for labor economics, finance, and the economics of climate change. Dr. Nelson shared the surprising empirical results from "Are Women Really More Risk Averse than Men" in her plenary address delivered at the conference, "Institutional Frameworks and Gender Relations: Implications for the Reality of Life for Women and Men," sponsored by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation on October 9, 2012 in Berlin. A later version of this paper appeared in the Journal of Economic Methodology Volume 21, Issue 3, August 2014.

These results have also received media attention. Read the ABC feature "Researcher Questions Whether Women More Risk-Averse Than Men" and a piece in the MailOnline "Do women gamble and take risks less than men? Don't bet on it, says researcher"

Is Dismissing the Precautionary Principle the Manly Thing to Do?
Many public debates about climate change now focus on the economic "costs" of taking action. Many leading mainstream economists downplay the need for care and caution on climate issues, forecasting a future with infinitely continued economic growth. This essay highlights the roles of binary metaphors and cultural archetypes in creating the highly gendered, sexist, and age-ist attitudes that underlie this dominant advice, and suggests that intellectual and cultural change are necessary if more prudent voices are to be heeded.

Would Women Leaders Have Prevented the Global Financial Crisis? (revised 2012)
This essay argues that while some behavioral research seems to support an exaggerated "difference" view of gender and finance, non-simplistic behavioral research debunks this and instead reveals the immense unconscious power of stereotyping. The more urgently needed gender analysis of the financial industry is not concerned with (presumed) "differences" by sex, but rather with the role of gender biases in the social construction of markets.

An earlier article featuring Dr. Nelson's working paper, Ethics and the Economist: What Climate Change Demands of Us was published on the website of Climate Himalaya Initiative.

Cover of ActionAir Report "Biofueling Hunger"Julie A. Nelson is a Professor of Economics at the College of Liberal Arts of the University of Massachusetts Boston. As one of the leading writers of feminist economic thought, Nelson currently conducts research on feminism and economics, with special interests in methodology and in implications for social and environmental policies. She has served as a Research Economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an Assistant and Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California-Davis, an Associate Professor of Economics at Brandeis University, a Visiting Associate Professor at Harvard University, a Fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard Divinity School, and as the Visiting Sowell Professor of Economics at Bates College.

Nelson is the author or co-author of several books, and of articles in journals ranging from Econometrica and the Journal of Political Economy, to Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society and Ecological Economics. She is an Associate Editor of the journal Feminist Economics. Professor Nelson is the author of Economics for Humans (2006) and Feminism, Objectivity, and Economics (1996), and co-author of several other books and textbooks including Microeconomics in Context and Macroeconomics in Context. She has published many journal articles on topics including the teaching of economics and the empirical analysis of household spending.

See more books and articles by Julie Nelson.

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