The Division of Labor Within the Family and Altruism: A Feminist Critique of Becker’s Models
Gender in Focus: Identities, Codes, Stereotypes and Politics. Editors: Andreea Zamfira, Christian de Montlibert, Daniela Radu, 2018
Posted: 29 Mar 2019
Date Written: October 18, 2018
This chapter tries to analyze to what extent Becker’s models from A Treatise on the Family comprise the male bias and whether they can be considered as a backlash against the feminist movements and the social changes they accompanied. The chapter will be focused only on two models that can be found in the Treatise, namely the household production model (Chapter 2) and the altruistic model (Chapter 8). My approach is based on Ferber’s analysis of the male majority encountered in the economic field (Ferber 1995: p. 357), as well as on the criticism leveled by feminist economists such as Bergmann (2005; 1989), Folbre (2004; 1999), and Nelson (2005; 1996).
The structure of the chapter is as follows: in the first section I will present the narrow context in which A Treatise on the Family emerged. I will cover both the economic theories that rival with Becker’s models as well as the general feminist criticism on his models and methods. In the second section I will present the social changes that occurred during that period: the second wave of feminism, the growing rate of female employment and the introduction of affirmative action for women. The third section will be focused on Becker’s household production model and his specialization recommendations while the fourth section details the altruistic model. Both sections will also comprise the criticisms advocated by feminist economists. The last section, the fifth, will conclude that Becker’s models do not only embed traditional, male-biased conceptions on gender roles, but also recommend even more patriarchal measures in order to repeal the achieved developments that serve gender equality. As such, I will conclude that Becker’s models represented a backlash against feminism, which he refused to take seriously. The methodological pursuit will consist of the text analysis of Becker’s aforementioned models.
Keywords: Gary Becker, feminist critique, feminist economics, gender norms
JEL Classification: J12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation