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Gender and the Future of Macroeconomics

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Decomposition by such an important category as gender helps us understand the economy at the macro level, and design macroeconomic policy, better. It also provides the foundation for advocating equal gender rights and outcomes. But, where gendered policy issues arise in mainstream macroeconomics (income maldistribution, labour market composition, etc.) the subject matter is narrowed by its microfoundations, by focusing on GDP growth and on suboptimal outcomes being explained by market imperfections.

An approach which takes gender seriously requires the different epistemology which arises from feminism: it does not rely on dualistic categorisations, but builds on the idea of situated knowledge, which in turn requires a pluralist methodology and an acceptance of fundamental uncertainty. Such a methodology allows for emergent identity, for the cognitive roles of emotion and social convention, and for attention to power other than market power. Reflecting on how limited is the scope for mainstream macroeconomics to address gender, and what is required of a useful alternative approach, provides a clear focus for a more general discussion of the future of macroeconomics.