IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Lone Mothers and Paid Work - Rational Economic Man or Gendered Moral Rationalities?

Listed author(s):
  • Simon Duncan
  • Rosalind Edwards
Registered author(s):

    In this article we examine the inadequacies of the rational economic man approach for understanding individual economic decision-making, and we suggest an alternative concept which we call ''gendered moral rationalities.'' We carry out this critique in the context of research on lone motherhood and paid work. This is an important social and political issue where analyses commonly use the rational economic man approach (although often only implicitly). However, these analyses have not, we argue, been able to understand the social processes by which lone mothers take up, or do not take up, paid work. In this paper we take the debate further by using recent empirical work on the employment position and values of lone mothers in Britain, integrating information from interviews with census data. The results suggest that it is nonmarket, collective relations and understandings about motherhood and employment which are the primary factors in explaining lone mothers' uptake of paid work. We term these ''gendered moral rationalities.'' While individual levels of human capital and policy constraints remain important, in a causal sense these are best seen as contingent, secondary factors. The source of economic rationality therefore, at least in this case, primarily lies outside the market and in the domain of collective, and highly gendered, understandings about proper social behavior. This critique parallels recent work by feminist economists who call for a complete restructuring in how economists think and conduct their research.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Feminist Economics.

    Volume (Year): 3 (1997)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 29-61

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:3:y:1997:i:2:p:29-61
    DOI: 10.1080/135457097338690
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    Order Information: Web:

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:3:y:1997:i:2:p:29-61. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Michael McNulty)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.