Nancy Folbre on Economic Policies to Benefit Women

By Folbre, Nancy | Tikkun, January/February 2009 | Go to article overview

Nancy Folbre on Economic Policies to Benefit Women


Folbre, Nancy, Tikkun


I'M GIVING YOU STRAIGHT AS ON MOST OF YOUR TRANSITION EFFORTS SO FAR. BUT I'M A MEMBER OF THE Economists' Policy Group on Women's Issues that gave you a mere B in the last month of your campaign (see http://epgwi.org). Sadly, I'm continuing to deduct points for your economic policies regarding women.

Sure, you've asked Hillary Clinton to join your cabinet. Your impressive wife has expressed a particular interest in improving work/family policies. Your chief economic advisor, Larry Summers, says he didn't mean to imply, years ago, that women are not quite as good at math as men. Women, like men, need the universal health insurance that you've promised.

But many of your economic policies seem gender blind- even gender biased. Your biggest fiscal stimulus plans call for investments in green energy and infrastructure that will create new jobs, as well as long-term benefits to sustainable growth. You don't point out that most of these jobs will go to men who predominate in construction and related trades. Women who try to enter such traditionally male occupations face problems of discrimination and sexual harassment not to mention work schedules that are anything but family-friendly. Please commit to explicit federal efforts to improve women's access to such jobs.

In your last debate with Senator John McCain, you supported the Lily Ledbetter Act which would overturn the Supreme Court's ruling that an employee only has 180 days to file a lawsuit alleging discrimination, whether or not they have access to the necessary information. Please get this legislation moving right away. And while you're at it please do something to remedy the deplorable pay and working conditions ofhome care workers such as Evelyn Coke, who was recently denied coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act to overtime pay, on the grounds that what she provides is really just "domestic service."

Better yet, why not direct part of your fiscal stimulus plan to improve the care sector of our economy? Economist James Heckman, among others, shows that investments in early childhood education deliver an extraordinarily high social rate of return- yet many states lack the funding they need to move forward in this area. Countless studies reveal painful shortfalls in long-term care, shortfalls that could be met by expansion of public support for paid home care workers and tax credits for family members providing for their own disabled, elderly, and infirm. …

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