Scientific Publication

Diffusion and Dilution: The Power and Perils of Integrating Feminist Perspectives Into Household Economics


Over the past thirty years, feminist economists have been at the forefront of work on household and intrahousehold economics. To a significant degree, their work has entered mainstream economics. This is surely a success story, both in the impact on academia and the broader implications for policy. This essay suggests that feminist economists should pause to reflect on the potential perils that accompany these successes. What gets lost when intrahousehold issues are folded into mainstream economic analyses? What is still missing in this literature? What still needs to be on the agenda for feminist economists working on issues around households? The essay highlights five potential perils: the focus on individuals, the narrow definition of households, the tendency for questions to be driven by available data and metrics, the possibility of collecting more data than scholars can use, and the need to include social norms and structural constraints.