Research Programs

Gender Equality and the Economy

Gender Equality and the Economy

While gender inequalities have diminished in some aspects of life, they remain deeply rooted in others. The vast majority of women around the world do not enjoy equality in economic participation, physical security, access to land, and financial resources or earnings. Closing gender gaps requires policy interventions that enhance women's economic opportunities and outcomes.

The Levy Institute’s Gender Equality and the Economy (GEE) program focuses on the ways in which economic processes and policies affect gender equality, and examines the influence of gender inequalities on economic outcomes. GEE’s goal is to stimulate reexamination of key economic concepts, models, and indicators—with a particular view to reformulating policy. It offers a broad view of what an economy is and how it functions, bringing into the analysis not only paid work, but also unpaid work (unpaid family work, work devoted to subsistence activities, caring for household members, and community volunteer work), as an integral and key component of all economies. Ultimately, the program seeks to contribute knowledge and recommend policies that promote gender equality.

Our Research
GEE research concentrates on two primary themes: the gender dimensions of macroeconomic issues and international economic policy; and gender equality, poverty, and well-being in national and international perspective. In the past decade, a growing body of work has explored how macroeconomic outcomes are affected by gender inequalities, and how gender inequalities are influenced by macroeconomic policies. Although gender equality is not the focus of macroeconomic policy, such policies cannot be assumed to be gender neutral. Does a requirement to balance budgets make it more difficult to reduce gender inequality? Given the inability of markets to guarantee a job for all who seek one, how can public policy that promotes full employment be inclusive of gender equality considerations? How can economic growth and gender equality be made compatible? Can gender equality improve the employment/inflation trade-off?

The Levy Institute Measure of Economic Well-Being (LIMEW) was established in order to improve existing official measures of economic well-being and to allow for accurate cross-sectional and intertemporal comparisons. GEE has enhanced this area of the Levy Institute’s work by developing research on the intersection of gender inequality, expanded income, and time poverty. This research—including the reexamination of UN indicators for measuring gender inequality, new analyses of time-use data, and work preparatory to formulating alternative policy indicators—was central to the development of the Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty, a new, innovative income measure that accounts for the negative impact time deficits exert on living standards.
The International Working Group on Gender, Macroeconomics, and International Economics (GEM-IWG) is a global network of economists formed for the purpose of promoting gender equity in the context of the world economy. GEE has partnered with GEM-IWG in organizing a series of seminars and conferences that are designed to promote a more focused international dialogue on the social dimension of globalization, and to explore the relationship between gender inequality and the economic liberalization policies that underpin the globalization process. The series is ongoing:

Associated Program

The Levy Institute Measure of Time and Income Poverty

Program Publications

  • Working Paper No. 966 | August 2020
    This paper discusses new methods of combined macro-micro analysis of labor demand and supply to investigate the gender impacts of public policy. In particular it examines how studies have used input-output analysis together with more or less sophisticated methods of allocating people to jobs to model the impact of public investment in care on the gender employment gap and other inequality measures. It presents some results of a cross-country comparison of investment in the care and construction industries, suggesting methodological refinements to take account of the labor supply effects of such investment policies in order to enable a more detailed analysis of who gets the jobs generated and under what conditions of employment to achieve a more accurate assessment of a policy’s full impact on employment inequalities. We argue that such a microsimulation of who is likely to get any newly created jobs should be able to take account of the (child)care “tax” paid by those with caring responsibilities on time spent in employment (as well as the formal tax and benefit system).
    Associated Program:
    Jerome De Henau Susan Himmelweit
    Related Topic(s):

  • Working Paper No. 959 | June 2020
    Comparative Evidence for Developed, Semi-Industrialized, and Low-Income Agricultural Economies
    This paper applies a robust empirical methodology, which considers issues relating to cross-country heterogeneity and cross-sectional dependence, to inspect the contributions of gender equality and factor income distribution to an economy’s growth path. A dynamic model of aggregate demand is estimated on a unique panel dataset from 46 countries that are further grouped into developed (DC), semi-industrialized (SIEs), and low-income agricultural economies (LIAEs).
    The empirical findings suggest that, overall, growth is driven by investment in the short run and domestic demand in the long run. In the short run, the results suggest that low female wages act as a stimulus to growth in SIEs but may promote contractionary pressures on demand in the long run. For LIAEs and DCs, the effect of improved labor market conditions for women—leaving men’s constant—on demand-led growth conditions are positive in the short run but may harm long-term growth prospects.
    In all, the empirical evidence, combined with the stylized facts about institutional and economic inequality, suggests that the impact of gender and income inequality on macroeconomic outcomes will differ depending on the economic structure and level of economic development.

  • Policy Note 2020/3 | April 2020
    Research Scholar Martha Tepepa explains how the US response to the COVID-19 crisis will be hindered by its approach to immigration policy. The administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration campaign creates a public health risk in the context of this pandemic, and the recent implementation of the “Inadmissibility on Public Charge Grounds” final rule penalizing noncitizen recipients of some social services will further restrict access to treatment and encumber the fight against the coronavirus.

  • Public Policy Brief No. 149 | April 2020
    The costs of the COVID-19 pandemic—in terms of both the health risks and economic burdens—will be borne disproportionately by the most vulnerable segments of US society. In this public policy brief, Luiza Nassif-Pires, Laura de Lima Xavier, Thomas Masterson, Michalis Nikiforos, and Fernando Rios-Avila demonstrate that the COVID-19 crisis is likely to widen already-worrisome levels of income, racial, and gender inequality in the United States. Minority and low-income populations are more likely to develop severe infections that can lead to hospitalization and death due to COVID-19; they are also more likely to experience job losses and declines in their well-being.

    The authors argue that our policy response to the COVID-19 crisis must target these unequally shared burdens—and that a failure to mitigate the regressive impact of the crisis will not only be unjust, it will prolong the pandemic and undermine any ensuing economic recovery efforts. As the authors note, we are in danger of falling victim to a vicious cycle: the pandemic and economic lockdown will worsen inequality; and these inequalities exacerbate the spread of the virus, not to mention further weaken the structure of the US economy.

  • Working Paper No. 950 | April 2020
    The United States government recently passed legislation and stabilization packages to respond to the COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) outbreak by providing paid sick leave, tax credits, and free virus testing; expanding food assistance and unemployment benefits; and increasing Medicaid funding. However, the response to the global pandemic might be hindered by the lassitude of the state and the administration’s conception of social policy that leaves the most vulnerable unprotected. The administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration campaign poses public health challenges, especially in the prevention of communicable diseases. In addition to the systemic obstacles noncitizens face in their access to healthcare, recent changes to immigration law that penalize recipients of some social services on grounds that they are a public charge will further restrict their access to treatment and hinder the fight against the pandemic.

  • Working Paper No. 939 | October 2019
    The Case of Ghana
    Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a widely recognized human rights violation with serious consequences for the health and well-being of women and their families. However, the wider ramifications of VAWG for businesses, communities, economies, and societies are only recently being recognized. Despite this recognition, there are few studies exploring how the economic and social impacts of VAWG affect economic growth, development, and social stability. In this paper, applying the social accounting approach, we outline the ripple effects of VAWG from the individual micro-level impacts to the macroeconomy. Our analysis shows the loss due to VAWG amounts to about 0.94 percent of Ghanaian GDP and is a permanent invisible leakage from the circular flow of the economy. The analysis also shows that the loss due to violence is not just a one-off leakage from the macroeconomic circular flow and explores the potential consequences of the multiplier loss due to VAWG over a period of time. The cumulative loss is sizeable and inflicts a premium on GDP growth over time—in simple terms, inaction today in addressing VAWG for cost considerations will impose a larger cost premium on economic growth, which will constrain tomorrow’s resources.
    Associated Program(s):
    Srinivas Raghavendra Kijong Kim Sinead Ashe Mrinal Chadha Felix Asante Petri T. Piiroinen Nata Duvvury
    Related Topic(s):

  • Working Paper No. 921 | January 2019
    This paper is a comparison between two programs implemented to combat poverty in Latin America: Prospera (Prosper) in Mexico and Asignación Universal por Hijo (Universal Assignment for Child) in Argentina.
    The first section offers a review of the emergence of the welfare state, examining economic and urban development in both countries and the underlying trends of social policy instruments.
    The analysis is based on the political nature of social problems and the actions undertaken to confront them. The paper offers a theoretical perspective, often questioning the very foundation of the social policy that serves as the main framework for the social programs, in order to present the policies’ scope, successes, and disadvantages with reference to social equity and the well-being of their participants.

  • Working Paper No. 920 | January 2019
    Efficacy of Gender Budgeting in Asia Pacific
    Gender budgeting is a fiscal approach that seeks to use a country’s national and/or local budget(s) to reduce inequality and promote economic growth and equitable development. While the literature has explored the connection between reducing gender inequality and achieving growth and equitable development, more empirical analysis is needed on whether gender budgeting reduces gender inequality. Our study follows the methodology of Stotsky and Zaman (2016) to investigate the impact of gender budgeting on promoting gender equality across Asia Pacific countries. The study classifies Asia Pacific countries as gender budgeting or non-gender budgeting according to whether they have formalized gender budgeting initiatives in laws and/or budget call circulars. To measure the effect of gender budgeting on reducing inequality, we measure the correlation between gender budgeting and the Gender Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Inequality Index (GII) scores in each country. The data for our gender inequality variables are mainly drawn from the IMF database on gender indicators and the World Development Indicators database over the 1990–2013 period. Our results show that gender budgeting has a significant effect on increasing the GDI and a small but significant potential to reduce the GII, strengthening the rationale for employing gender budgeting to promote inclusive development. However, our empirical results show no prioritization of gender budgeting in the fiscal space of health and education sectors in the region.
    Associated Program:
    Lekha S. Chakraborty Marian Ingrams Yadawendra Singh
    Related Topic(s):

  • Working Paper No. 899 | January 2018
    The goal of this paper is to examine the patterns and movements of the gender pay gaps in the countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU) and to place them in the context of advanced economies. We survey over 30 publications and conduct a meta-analysis of this literature. Gender pay gaps in the region are considerable and above the levels observed in advanced economies. Similar to advanced economies, industrial and occupational segregation widens the gaps in the FSU countries, whereas gender differences in educational attainment tend to shrink them. However, a much higher proportion of the gaps remain unexplained, pointing toward the role of unobserved gender differences related to actual and perceived productivity. Over the last 25 years, the gaps contracted in most FSU countries, primarily due to the reduction in the unexplained portion. Underlying the contraction at the mean are different movements in the gap across the pay distribution. Although the glass-ceiling effect has diminished in some FSU countries, it has persisted in others. We investigate the reasons underlying these findings and argue that the developments in the FSU region shed new light on our understanding of the gender pay gaps.