April 2022

IZA DP No. 15217: Gender Economics: Dead-Ends and New Opportunities

Forthcoming in Research in Labor Economics: 50th Celebratory Volume.

The economics literature on gender has expanded considerably in recent years, fueled in part by new sources of data, including from experimental studies of gender differences in preferences and other traits. At the same time, economists have been developing more realistic models of psychological and social influences on individual choices and the evolution of culture and social norms. Despite these innovations much of the economics of gender has been left behind, and still employs a reductive framing in which gender gaps in economic outcomes are either due to discrimination or to “choice.” I suggest here that the persistence of this approach is due to several distinctive economic habits of mind—strong priors driven by market bias and gender essentialism, a perspective that views the default economic agent as male, and an oft-noted tendency to avoid complex problems in favor of those that can be modeled simply. I also suggest some paths forward.