Two 'Two Ostrom' Problems

Forthcoming in History of Political Economy 54 (6), 2022. DOI 10.1215/00182702-10085629

34 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2021 Last revised: 8 Aug 2022

See all articles by Marianne Johnson

Marianne Johnson

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh - Department of Economics

Date Written: August 25, 2021


This paper considers two distinct but interrelated historiographic problems that influence our perceptions of Elinor Ostrom’s contributions to economics. The first relates to the difficulties women face in dual-career partnerships which often impact their ability to establish independent academic careers and gain fair recognition for contributions to shared research programs. How Ostrom negotiated these challenges highlights the many and often hidden constraints professional women face. The second problem is how to gauge or weight the work of the Ostrom who was a multidisciplinary scholar of the commons with that of the Ostrom who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. Exploring her trajectory in public choice over a half century makes apparent the remarkable force a Nobel Prize exerts on post-hoc appraisals of a career. What is different in the case of Ostrom is that as ‘the first woman to win the prize,’ the award has also served to obscure many of the gender-biased experiences and constraints that Ostrom shared with other women of her generation.

Keywords: Elinor Ostrom, Public Choice, Sociology of Economics, Women in Economics, Gender Discrimination

JEL Classification: B31, B25, H11, Z13

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Marianne, Two 'Two Ostrom' Problems (August 25, 2021). Forthcoming in History of Political Economy 54 (6), 2022. DOI 10.1215/00182702-10085629, Available at SSRN: or

Marianne Johnson (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh - Department of Economics ( email )

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