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"Unorthodox, troublesome, dangerous and disobedient": a feminist perspective on health economics, CHERE Discussion Paper No 33


  • Jane Hall

    () (CHERE, University of Technology, Sydney)


Feminist theory has developed to explore the links between the social construction of scientific disciplines and the social construction of gender (Ferber and Nelson, 1993). The critique of economic theory is a more recent application of feminist theory. Many feminist economists have examined issues of gender bias within neoclassical economics. It is the aim of this discussion paper to outline this feminist critique of economics, particularly neoclassical economics, and to discuss its relevance to health economics. The feminist critique is relevant to health economics for a number of reasons. Health economics draws upon theories developed in other areas of economics such as finance and insurance, industrial organisation, labour and public finance. Therefore, many of the gender related criticisms applied to the discipline of economics can be extended to health economics. It is also relevant simply because women represent the main labour force within health , are the majority of unpaid producers of health care and health, and are the principal consumers of market provided health care. The paper examines how three key assumptions in neoclassical economics have been applied in health economics: the idea of the separative self, the single maximand and the benchmark of perfect competition. It is argued that while the idea of market failure is more central to health economics than to other areas of economics, these key assumptions are evident in the work of health economists, and have implications for androcentric bias in the sub-discipline. The implications of these assumptions are investigated for one of the major areas of work in health economics - that of economic evaluation of health care interventions.

Suggested Citation

  • Jane Hall, 1997. ""Unorthodox, troublesome, dangerous and disobedient": a feminist perspective on health economics, CHERE Discussion Paper No 33," Discussion Papers 33, CHERE, University of Technology, Sydney.
  • Handle: RePEc:her:chedps:33

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Debreu, Gerard, 1991. "The Mathematization of Economic Theory," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 1-7, March.
    2. Evans, R.G. & Stoddart, G.L., 1990. "Producing Health, Consuming Health Care," Centre for Health Services and Policy Research 90:13r, University of British Columbia - Centre for Health Services and Policy Research..
    3. Woolley, Frances R, 1993. "The Feminist Challenge to Neoclassical Economics," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(4), pages 485-500, December.
    4. Evans, Robert G. & Stoddart, Gregory L., 1990. "Producing health, consuming health care," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 31(12), pages 1347-1363, January.
    5. Sen, Amartya, 1991. "Welfare, preference and freedom," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1-2), pages 15-29, October.
    6. R Evans & G Stoddart, 1990. "Producing Health, Consuming Health Care," Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis Working Paper Series 1990-06, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis (CHEPA), McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada.
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    More about this item


    Feminist thoery; health economics;

    JEL classification:

    • I11 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Analysis of Health Care Markets


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