An economist and a novelist team up to show that when women don’t flourish, neither does the GDP.
Drawing in part on data from the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law project, Georgetown School of Foreign Service senior fellow Lopez-Claros, the former director of Global Indicators at the World Bank and chief economist at the World Economic Forum, and Nakhjavani (Us&Them, 2017, etc.) argue that discussions of sexism must take economics into account, because the actual “price we are paying for inequality is too high.” With almost overwhelming force, the authors demonstrate the widespread persistence of gender inequality. As they note, in more than a dozen countries, husbands can legally prevent women from accepting paid employment; in Africa and South Asia, too few girls attend secondary school; and nearly 40 percent of people surveyed in 60 countries over four years agree that, when jobs are scarce, men should have more rights to paid employment than women. Lopez-Claros and Nakhjavani go on to demonstrate the economic consequences of inequality. For example, violence against women is commonplace, and female victims have diminished economic productivity. What’s to be done? Some of the authors’ conclusions are unsurprising—e.g., women who have control over reproduction have greater career choice. In their attempt to address religiously motivated gender discrimination, the authors blandly and patronizingly suggest that “perhaps the time has come to distinguish between the universal principles in all faiths and the cultural mirages we elevate to the level of religious doctrine.” They are more persuasive—and more energizing—when they offer specific policy ideas, such as the suggestion that state-sponsored pensions and health care could reduce “gendercide.” As they point out, the belief that sons are necessary protections against the economic ravages of aging often animates couples’ preferences for sons (and their practice of sex-selective abortion).
Impressive in scope and alternately inspiring and depressing.