Newspaper article International New York Times

Barbara Bergmann, Pioneer in Study of Gender Economics, Dies at 87

Newspaper article International New York Times

Barbara Bergmann, Pioneer in Study of Gender Economics, Dies at 87

Article excerpt

Long a liberal voice in economics, Ms. Bergmann was a fierce critic of proposed cuts to social programs that dated to the New Deal.

Barbara Bergmann, a pioneer in the study of gender in the economy who herself overcame barriers to women in the world of academic economics, died on April 5 at her home in Bethesda, Md. She was 87.

Her son, David Martin Bergmann, confirmed the death.

Ms. Bergmann was an emeritus professor at both American University and the University of Maryland, and she continued to research, publish and consult until very recently.

Sixty years ago, Ms. Bergmann did not need to sift through economic data to find evidence of discrimination. When she was a graduate student at Harvard in the mid-1950s, one library at the university was off-limits to women, Alice Rivlin, a fellow Ph.D. student who went on to become vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve and director of the Office of Management and Budget in the 1990s, said in a telephone interview on Friday.

Women had just begun to be permitted to work as teaching fellows at the time, Ms. Rivlin added, and they took exams separately from their male counterparts.

"It wasn't an atmosphere that was very congenial to women," she said. "It was hard to get an academic job unless you wanted to teach at a women's college."

Ms. Bergmann persisted. She initially taught at Harvard as an economics instructor after earning her doctorate there in 1958, and joined the White House Council of Economic Advisers in 1961 as a senior staff economist.

After working at Brandeis University and the Brookings Institution, Ms. Bergmann joined the University of Maryland faculty in 1965, teaching there until 1988.

She taught economics at American University from 1988 to 1997.

A co-founder of the International Association for Feminist Economics, Ms. Bergmann also contributed columns to the Sunday Business section of The New York Times in the 1980s.

Long a liberal voice in the field, Ms. Bergmann was a fierce critic of the laissez-faire policies then being advocated by the Reagan administration, and of proposed cuts to social programs that dated to the New Deal.

"We have our Scrooges, and lately the Scrooges have grown bolder in expressing themselves," she wrote in December 1981. "But we are not a nation of Scrooges. On the contrary, we are a nation that, seeing voluntary efforts as commendable but chronically insufficient, has for almost 50 years been relieving social distress through the federal Treasury, using the coercive powers of government to collect the funds."

Some of Ms. Bergmann's columns turned out to be prescient, with an early warning of just how severe the recession of the early 1980s would be. …

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