Economists discover the power of social norms

OVER THE past generation women have made substantial economic gains, even as progress on other measures of social equality has been uneven. Their average level of education has caught up to that of men across rich and poor countries alike. Indeed in much of the rich world the share of young women with a college degree is now above that of men. Income may be divided less equally across the workforce as a whole, but it has become more evenly spread between men and women. In America women account for nearly 30% of the top tenth of earners, up from 5% in the 1960s. That said, progress is far from complete. Gaps in labour-force participation and pay persist. The nature of the obstacles holding back further progress has changed. Although economics ought to be keenly interested in such matters, not least because of gender inequalities in the profession, it has not always been of much help in understanding them. That is changing, however, in ways that could transform the field.

This evolution was apparent in January, in a lecture given by Marianne Bertrand of the University of Chicago. Over the past few decades, gender gaps in the rich world have had ever less to do with overt discrimination, she argued, and ever more to do with women’s decisions. Their choice of degree subject is one. Jobs in science, technology, engineering and maths have...

via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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