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Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Conference Series ; [Proceedings]
Spinning the top: gender, games and macro outcomes
Nancy Folbre

Women may have different norms and preferences than men because we have had different responsibilities. Gender differences may be based to some extent in biology as well as culture. Yet we have attained the power to change both biology and culture, along with the very meaning of femininity. I believe that we have changed that meaning, for the most part, in positive ways. But I also believe that we have entered a Prisoner’s Dilemma game in which we are offered a choice between adopting traditionally masculine priorities and being denied access “to the top.” If we focus too narrowly on the optimal strategy of individual choice, we will lose our collective opportunity to change the rules of the game. ; We need to develop ways of controlling competitive pressures in the economy as a whole. So called “rat-race” and “squirrel cage effects,” like “arms race dynamics” weaken families, communities and long run sustainability. We need to think more carefully about the institutional organization of the paid care sector of the economy, providing more guarantees of high quality care for children, the sick, and the elderly. We need to move beyond the margins of conventional economic theory to develop better social accounting systems. If we don’t, we may reach the top of the mountain only to see it crumble beneath us.

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Nancy Folbre, "Spinning the top: gender, games and macro outcomes" , Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Conference Series ; [Proceedings], issue Mar, 2004.
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Keywords: Women - Employment ; Women executives
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