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Women, Men, & Work

Karen Leppel
School of Business Administration at Widener University, 2015
Level: beginner
Perspective: Feminist Economics
Topic: Inequality & Class, Labour & Care, Race & Gender
Format: Course description/syllabus

This syllabus was originally taught in Spring 2015
Instructor: Karen Leppel 

Course Objective:

This course is designed to provide students with an understanding of work- related gender issues and to enable students to analyze the issues using the tools of economics.

Learning Objectives:

At the completion of this course, the student should be able to:

  1. discuss the history and trends of women and men in the labor force.
  2. compare and contrast the allocation of market and non-market time in different households.
  3. use the analysis of income and substitution effects to determine how changes in government policies and changes in wages can influence labor force participation.
  4. explain verbally and with a table how occupational segregation operates.
  5. explain how education and training influence occupations and earnings.
  6. explain how discrimination influences occupations and earnings, and the concepts of affirmative action and comparable worth.
  7. distinguish the different types of unemployment and explain how they affect men and women differently.
  8. explain demographic differences in union membership and implications of different types of arbitration.
  9. recognize sexual harassment and respond appropriately from individual and corporateperspectives.
  10. explain factors influencing work and retirement decisions.
  11. recognize and work with people with different communication and leadership styles.
  12. explain how labor force participation, employment discrimination, relative wages, and unemployment differ around the world.

Primary Textbook: Blau, F.D., Ferber, M.A., & Winkler, A.E. (BFW). The Economics of Women, Men and Work, 7th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2010. ISBN: 0132992817

Course Outline:

I. Introduction and Overview of Supply and Demand in the Labor Market

BFW – Chapter 1
Film: “Talking 9 to 5: Women and Men in the Workplace” (30 minutes).

Topics: opportunity cost, law of supply, law of demand, diminishing marginal productivity, substitution effect, scale effect, equilibrium, change in demand versus change in quantity demanded, change in supply versus change in quantity supplied.

Practice Problem: Labor Supply and Demand Problem

II. Changing Roles in a Changing Economy

BFW – Chapter 2
Film: “Work and Family” (95 minutes) from the series “A Century of Women.”

Topics: hunting and gathering societies, horticultural societies, pastoral societies, agricultural societies, early industrialization

III. The Family as an Economic Unit: Specialization and Exchange

BFW – Chapters 3,4
Lachance-Grzela, M., & Bouchard, G. (2010). Why do women do the lion’s share of housework? A decade of research. Sex Roles, 63, 767 – 780.
Film: “Chore Wars: The Battle over Who Cleans the Toilet” (48 minutes).

Topics: law of comparative advantage, couples’ production possibility frontiers, indifference curves and utility maximization, advantages to forming a family (specialization and exchange, economies of scale, public goods, externalities in consumption, marriage- specific investments, risk pooling, institutional benefits), problems with market/household specialization, bargaining models of families, Marxists, Radical Feminists, housework trends, volunteerism, changes in U.S. demographic composition, distribution of housework.

Practice Problem: Comparative Advantage in Home and Market Production

IV. Allocation of Time between the Household and the Labor Market

BFW – Chapters 5 (except pp. 86-89, which we’ll do later) , 6, 13

Topics: labor force, employed, unemployed, labor force participation (LFP) rate, women’s rising LFP, men’s falling LFP, LFP patterns for men and women (by race, ethnicity, and education), budget constraint, substitution in household production and consumption, reservation wage, income and substitution effects, added worker effect, discouraged worker effect, trends in marriage and cohabitation, total fertility rate.

Practice Problem: Employment and Unemployment Problem
Practice Problem: Time Allocation Problem
Practice Problem: Income and Substitution Effects Problem


V. Differences in Occupations and Earnings

BFW – : pp. 135-154 in Chapter 7 and pp. 232-247 in Chap. 10

Topics: racial/ethnic and gender patterns in occupations, index of occupational segregation, gender wage ratios, literature pertaining to earnings and sexual orientation and gender identity (transgender status).

Practice Problem: Occupational Segregation Problem

VI. The Human Capital Model of Differences in Occupations and Earnings

BFW – Chapters 8 and 9

Topics: human capital, racial/ethnic differences in educational attainment, experience- earnings profiles, present value and decision to attend college, implications of discontinuous labor force participation, factors affecting women’s career decisions, general training, firm-specific training, tied movers and tied stayers. 

Practice Problem: Human Capital Problem

VII. Labor Market Discrimination

BFW – pp. 221-232 in Chapter 10, Chapter 11, and Chapter 12

Topics: definition of labor market discrimination, measuring discrimination, tastes for discrimination (by employers, employees, and customers), statistical discrimination, overcrowding, internal labor market, dual labor market, institutional discrimination, inefficiency resulting from discrimination, equity or fairness, Equal Pay Act, Civil Rights Act, state antidiscrimination laws pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity, disparate treatment, disparate impact, Affirmative Action plans, Comparable Worth.

Practice Problem: Discrimination and Underrepresentation Problem
Practice Problem: Occupational Restrictions and Overcrowding Problem
Practice Problem: Comparable Worth Problem

VIII. Sexual Harassment

C. R. Willness, P. Steel, and K. Lee. (2007). A meta-analysis of the antecedents and consequences of workplace sexual harassment. Personnel Psychology, 60, 127–162. 
Badgett, M.V.L., Lau, H., Sears, B., and Ho, D., (2007). Bias in the Workplace: Consistent Evidence of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination. Los Angeles: Williams Institute.
Film: “Proactive Management and Sexual Harassment” (21 minutes).
Film: “Out at Work: America Undercover” (58 minutes.)

Topics: sexual harassment by quid pro quo or hostile work environment, employers’ responsibility in harassment issues, antecedents and consequences of workplace sexual harassment, LGBT harassment and discrimination.


IX. Employment, Unemployment, and Part-time Employment

BFW –  pp. 86-89 in Chapter 5; pp. 157-160 in Chapter 7

Topics: frictional, structural, and cyclical unemployment, natural rate of unemployment, involuntary part-time employment, nonstandard work force, temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, independent contractors, self-employment.

X. Labor Unions

BFW – pp 155-157 in Chapter 7;
Potter, E.E. (2001). Labor’s Love Lost: Changes in the U.S. Environment and Declining Private Sector Unionism. Journal of Labor Research, 22, 321-334.

Topics: supply and demand for union services, differences in union membership by gender, race/ethnicity, age, public/private sector, industry, state, union shop, free-rider problem, right-to-work laws, strike, firm’s concession curve and union’s resistance curve, settlement point, splitting-the-difference arbitration, final-offer arbitration, decline in union membership, private and social benefits of unions, glass ceiling in union leadership.

Practice Problem: Unions and Arbitration Problem

XI. Poverty and Income

BFW –  Chapter 14 and pp. 330-345 in Chapter 15;
Brown, C. & Kesselring, R. (2003). Female Headship and the Economic Status of Young Men in the United States, 1977-2001. Journal of Economic Issues, 37, 343-351.
Film: “SEWA” (52 minutes).

Topics: definition of poverty, poverty differences (based on race/ethnicity, family type, sex, and age), goals of welfare programs, Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), income taxes and marriage penalties and bonuses, marriage and EITC.

Practice Problem: Welfare Benefits
Practice Problem: Poverty and Income – Earned Income Credit Problem

XII. Retirement

BFW – 7th ed.: pp. 345-348 in Chapter 15;
Purcell, P.J (2000). Older Workers: Employment and Retirement Trends. Monthly Labor Review, October 2000, pp. 19-30.

Topics: retirement characteristics, defined-benefit and defined-contribution pension plans, social security (secondary earners, full retirement age, delayed retirement credit, earnings test), phased retirement.

Practice Problem: Social Security Problem

XIII. Leadership Styles

Appelbaum, S.H., Audet, L., & Miller, J.C. (2003). Gender and Leadership? Leadership and Gender? A Journey through the Landscape of Theories. Leadership & Organization Development Journal, 24, 43-51.
Film: “Beyond the Glass Ceiling” (41 minutes).

Topics: glass ceiling, “biology is destiny” theories of leadership, gender role theories of leadership, factors affecting women’s leadership effectiveness, command and control versus interactive leadership styles.

XIV. Policies to Balance Paid Work and Family

BFW –  Chapter 16
Zimmerman, S.L. (2000). A Family Policy Agenda to Enhance Families’ Transactional Interdependencies over the Life Span. Families in Society, 81, 557-566.

Topics: Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, flextime, job-sharing, home-based work, cafeteria plans, flexible spending accounts, policies for couples, dependent care tax credit, child tax credit, on- or near-site day care, after school programs.

XV. Women, Men & Work Around the World

BFW – Chapters 17 and 18;

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Comment from our editors:

This syllabus is part of the Syllabi collection on International Association for Feminist Economics. This course is suitable for undergraduate students.


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