'Economics is Not a Man's Field': CSWEP and the First Gender Reckoning in Economics (1971-1991)

39 Pages Posted: 21 Jan 2020 Last revised: 14 May 2020

See all articles by Cleo Chassonnery-Zaïgouche

Cleo Chassonnery-Zaïgouche

CRASSH, University of Cambridge

Beatrice Cherrier

CNRS; University of Cergy-Pontoise - THEMA

John D. Singleton

University of Rochester - Department of Economics

Date Written: December 28, 2019


This paper is a history of the first gender reckoning in U.S. economics, which began in the early 1970s. Based on hitherto closed archives of the American Economic Association (AEA), we reconstruct the historical context that led to the establishment of the Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP) in order to unpack its successes and failures, the enthusiasm it generated, and the resistance it encountered. We first show that then (as now), the birth of CSWEP was tied to larger social concerns: the feminist and civil rights movements, growing public awareness of issues surrounding discrimination and inequality, and the shifting legal context that drew many scientific societies and institutions toward such a reckoning. The economics profession was a late comer in responding to these changes.

The narrative then turns to how economists’ particular approach to understanding social phenomena influenced views within the profession regarding gender disparities. Economists both study and experience discrimination, which led economists to view the status of women in the profession through the lens of economic analysis. The final section reflects on changes during the 1980s that saw the normalization of gender topics in economics as well as witnessed a fragmentation among economists interested in furthering the status of women. In conclusion, we emphasize how much CSWEP has contributed to the professionalization of economics at large through wielding theoretical and empirical tools.

Keywords: CSWEP, history of economics, gender, women, Bell

JEL Classification: A10, A13, A14, B20, B29, B50, B54

Suggested Citation

Chassonnery-Zaïgouche, Cleo and Cherrier, Beatrice and Singleton, John D., 'Economics is Not a Man's Field': CSWEP and the First Gender Reckoning in Economics (1971-1991) (December 28, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3510857 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3510857

Cleo Chassonnery-Zaïgouche

CRASSH, University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

Beatrice Cherrier (Contact Author)

CNRS ( email )

3, rue Michel-Ange
Paris, 75794

University of Cergy-Pontoise - THEMA ( email )

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

John D. Singleton

University of Rochester - Department of Economics ( email )

Harkness Hall
Rochester, NY 14627
United States

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