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Teaching economics with nuance

Even if your department decides not to offer separate courses in heterodox theories of economics or on Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in Economics, it is important (and maybe even preferable) to integrate alternative perspectives and experiences into the content of existing courses. Acknowledge that the world is more complex than our simple (or even advanced) models suggest. Show how economists have taken steps towards improving models and methods and how we still have work ahead.

Here are some examples:


On the Labor-Leisure Model: To analyze an individual's time allocation decision, use a model of utility model derived indirectly from market goods and nonmarket time. While a portion of time outside of paid employment is leisure, men and especially women spend significant amounts of nonmarket time producing goods and services for the household[1] and caring for children[2]. Francine D. Blau, Marianne A. Ferber, Anne E. Winkler offer a great presentation of this model in The Economics of Women, Men, and Work by
On discrimination: Explicitly acknowledge the narrow conditions under which competitive market forces penalize and eliminate discrimination. Teach alternative theories of discrimination, which explain the persistence of discrimination in markets.


On Shortcomings of GDP: Assign Who's Counting?: Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies & Global Economics (online at, in which Marilyn Waring speaks about women's work and the importance of assigning value to it. Ask students to identify three policy decisions that may generate inefficiency if the policymakers do not adequately account for the value of nonmarket production. Ask students to identify and discuss three policy decisions that may generate inequity if policymakers do not adequately account for the value of nonmarket production.
On the Financial Crisis: Consider "the role of stratification along multiple trajectories – race, class, and gender – in contributing to economic crises and in shaping their distributional dynamics." See Fukuda-Parr, Sakiko, James Heintz, and Stephanie Seguino, "Critical Perspectives on Financial and Economic Crises: Heterodox Macroeconomics Meets Feminist Economics Feminist Economics," Volume 19, Issue 3, 2013.

Additional suggestions for course content