Why gender matters in economics

Sasha Weilbaker, Staff Writer

Professor at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, Alyssa Schneebaum ’06, visited campus on Nov. 7 to give a presentation in the ELC Forum titled “Gender in Today’s Economy.”

While studying at the University, Schneebaum was a double major in economics and women’s and gender studies. Schneebaum went on to get her Ph.D at University of Massachusetts Amherst, where she studied the role of gender in economics. She is currently a rising star in the field of feminist economics, her main research interests being same-sex households, the decision-making process of couples, and the allocation of responsibilities within the household.

Schneebaum presented a range of summaries and statistics regarding her prior research. The topics covered included the division of labor between different-sex and same-sex couples, the difference in agricultural productivity between Ethiopian men and women, loans given in Bangladesh based on gender, the effect of sexual orientation on income in the United States, and the effect that parents have on the education levels of their children.

Schneebaum defined gender as a “mechanism that matters in how economic outcomes and processes happen.” Schneebaum used intersectionality, or the interconnectedness of social categories, to examine the economies of different nations and how these social categories impact personal finances as those of the community as a whole.

“I feel like I’ve heard many qualitative arguments surrounding the division of labor, but I appreciated the microeconomic justification for its social construction,” Sam Jacobson ’17 said.

Jacobson also said that he enjoyed hearing from a women’s and gender studies alumna, mainly because it gave students interested in the field an example of an exciting career they could pursue.

Schneebaum gave critical, personal advice to the members of the audience who were unsure of their futures.

“Try to find the thing that is most interesting to you. The things that interested me while I was pursuing my degrees helped to steer me in the direction of the role of gender in economics because I was able to combine my interests, leading me to where I am today,” Schneebaum said.

Schneebaum concluded her talk by highlighting the importance of her profession and advising current students to follow in her footsteps.

“The coolest thing about my work is that, since gender is socially defined and constructed, we can change the way the economy works in regards to gender by changing the way we view it,” Schneebaum said.

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