Chapter 20: From micro-level gender relations to the macro economy and back again
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Until recently, micro-level economic relations tended to be analyzed separately from macroeconomic outcomes, with little consideration of their interaction. The ‘separate spheres’ framework has come under challenge as a result of an expanding investigation into the effect of inequality on economic growth that gained momentum in the 1990s.The exploration of the two-way relationship between gender inequality and macroeconomic outcomes has contributed to the integration of microeconomics into the study of macroeconomics. The origins of the gender and macroeconomics research agenda can be traced to three strands of inquiry in the emerging field of feminist macroeconomics. One thread emerged in the 1980s, exploring the impact of macroeconomic policies in the form of structural adjustment programs on women’s absolute and relative (to men) well-being. In this body of work, feminist scholars undertook a gender impact ‘mapping’ of macro-level policies, previously believed to be gender neutral. A second line of inquiry that forms part of the gender and macroeconomics theoretical foundation explores the care economy, alternatively known as ‘social reproduction’. Caring labor, often unpaid, is required to reproduce human beings and thus forms one pillar of a society’s material resources essential for improving living standards and the quality of life. That caring labor has largely been performed by women in recent history and has long been ignored in national income accounts rendered it invisible with the women who performed it labeled ‘unproductive’.

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