Economics of Gender, Work & Family

Course description: During the past half century, Americans have observed dramatic increases in female labor force participation, delayed marriage, increased divorce rates, reduced fertility rates, and increased longevity. This study examines economic trends in family and labor markets, including wage differentials, gender/race inequalities, occupations and earnings, labor force participation and economic mobility.  Economic theories that explain human capital choices, discrimination, marriage, fertility and family decision making are introduced.  This course assumes no prior background in economics. There is no required textbook, all readings and videos are online below; homeworks are based entirely on these resources. Schedule: one HW per week to meet end of term deadline.

Optional textbook : Blau, Ferber, Winkler. The Economics of Women, Men and Work, 5-6th edition.   5th edition ISBN: 0131877828.  Cheap on

Course modules, Readings, HWs

1.   Current  trends in gender, work and family

2.   Choices and Incentives

3.   How are wages determined by the markets?

  • Goals: understand concepts of markets, supply and demand, equilibrium market price, minimum wage, unions

4.   Wage differentials, gender gap

5.      Unemployment, labor market discrimination

6.   Marriage and divorce

7.   Human capital, unemployment 

8.      Class, Inequality, Poverty, Government policies. 

9.   Research project



Students taking this study at introductory level will be assessed based on discussions of the reading materials in homework assignments.  Students taking this study at advanced level will write a research article on a topic of their choice related to the course content or a book reaction paper in response to a book they have read.  The goal of this research assignment is to develop expertise in some narrow issue related to the economics of gender, work and family.

Book reaction paper

Books written by economists and sociologists are availble from the recent non-fiction shelf in your public library. For example:

  • Joanne Lipman, That’s What she said.
  • Alison Wolf, The XX Factor: How the Rise of Working Women Has Created a Far Less Equal World
  • Eric KlinenbergGoing Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone
  • Joseph E. Stiglitz , The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future
  • Liza Mundy , The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family

Writing a book reaction paper

  1. Summarize the book you have read.
  2. What is the author’s main message? What central question is the author trying to answer?
  3. Why is this issue important? Give examples, numbers and quotes to illustrate your point.
  4. What interesting facts have you learned from this book?
  5. What part of the issue is controversial?  Why?
  6. What is your stand on the controversial issue(s)?
  7. How is the issue raised in the book relevant today?  What current news and events illustrate its importance? Do your own mini internet research on this topic. Use examples, numbers, and quote your sources.

Research article, or “expert article”

Narrow down your research interests to one specific question and let that quesiton be the title of your article, for example:

  • Changing labor market: will robots replace all workers?
  • Do women earn less than men, or is it a myth?
  • Is there a premium or penalty in the labor market for gay people?
  • Why does income inequality hurt our society?
  • Which countries have achieved gender pay equality, and how?
  • Which countries have the highest gender pay inequality or equality, and what are the causes?
  • US marriage laws across states, pros and cons of recent changes.

Research Links

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