'I Occasionally Learn Something': Paul Samuelson, Gender Bias and Discrimination Before 1973

29 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2018 Last revised: 7 Aug 2018

Roger Backhouse

University of Birmingham - Department of Economics

Beatrice Cherrier

CNRS; University of Cergy-Pontoise - THEMA

Date Written: June 30, 2018

Abstract

This paper offers a historical perspective on economists’ treatment of women, through exploring the case of Paul Samuelson. Some of his remarks about women in the economy and in economics were famously considered deprecatory. We place them in the context of the discussions of discrimination in his textbook, Economics, and his interactions with female students and colleagues. Drawing on correspondence as well as published work, the paper reveals a complex set of attitudes: Samuelson recognized very early that women were held back by discrimination and wrote about it with a depth not seen in other textbooks. But his experience and support of women he knew did not mitigate some of the prejudices he held about women in general. It was when challenged over some of his statements that he apologized and adopted a more reflexive stance.

Keywords: Samuelson, Gender, Textbook, Women in Economics

JEL Classification: A10, A13, A14, B20, B29, B31

Suggested Citation

Backhouse, Roger and Cherrier, Beatrice, 'I Occasionally Learn Something': Paul Samuelson, Gender Bias and Discrimination Before 1973 (June 30, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3206042 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3206042

Roger Backhouse

University of Birmingham - Department of Economics ( email )

Economics Department
Birmingham, B15 2TT
United Kingdom

Beatrice Cherrier (Contact Author)

CNRS ( email )

3, rue Michel-Ange
Paris, 75794
France

University of Cergy-Pontoise - THEMA ( email )

33 boulevard du port
F-95011 Cergy-Pontoise Cedex, 95011
France

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