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Gender as More Than a Dummy Variable: Feminist Approaches to Discrimination


  • Deborah Figart


To avow that gender is more than an independent--or dummy--variable is to posit the centrality of gender (as well as race and class) in economic analysis. Conventional economic methods tend to neglect the process by which gender interacts with and shapes other social forces and institutions. The basis for a feminist alternative is the assertion that the social construction of gender permeates men's and women's labor market experiences. A feminist definition of discrimination is proposed which emphasizes process as well as outcomes; measurable as well as unquantifiable repercussions. Labor market discrimmation is a multidimensional interaction of economic, social, political, and cultural forces in both the workplace and the family, resulting in differential outcomes involving pay, employment, and status. Several propositions toward developing feminist approaches to labor market discrimination are illustrated with examples of feminist research. These propositions delineate feminist work on: the importance of praxis-based research; the necessity for methodological pluralism; the role of power in wage-setting within the firm; the impact of macro-social institutions; and the intersections of gender, race, class, and other social forces.

Suggested Citation

  • Deborah Figart, 1997. "Gender as More Than a Dummy Variable: Feminist Approaches to Discrimination," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 55(1), pages 1-32.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:rsocec:v:55:y:1997:i:1:p:1-32
    DOI: 10.1080/00346769700000022

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jane Lapidus & Deborah Figart, 1998. "Remedying "Unfair Acts": U.S. Pay Equity by Race and Gender," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(3), pages 7-28.
    2. Catherine Le Capitaine & Gregor Murray & Christian Lévesque, 2013. "Special Issue. Edited by: Gregor Murray, Christian Lévesque, Christian Dufour and Adelheid Hege," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(4), pages 389-408, July.
    3. Marilyn Power, 1999. "Parasitic-Industries Analysis and Arguments for a Living Wage for Women in the Early Twentieth-Century United States," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(1), pages 61-78.
    4. Ellen Mutari & Deborah Figart & Marilyn Power, 2001. "Implicit Wage Theories in Equal Pay Debates in the United States," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(2), pages 23-52.
    5. Zdravka, Todorova, 2009. "Employer of Last Resort Policy and Feminist Economics: Social Provisioning and Socialization of Investment," MPRA Paper 16240, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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