Women’s Empowerment and Economic Development: A Feminist Critique of Storytelling Practices in “Randomista” Economics

Women’s Empowerment and Economic Development: A Feminist Critique of Storytelling Practices in “Randomista” Economics

By Naila Kabeer

  • Despite claims of impartiality, Duflo’s interpretations of evidence and the language she uses indicate that the randomista method and narrative is not objective or impartial.
  • The randomistas’ treatment of preferences as random and idiosyncratic ignores what feminists have long espoused: that the formation of preferences derives from entrenched social constructions.
  • The randomistas’ claims to methodological superiority result in a discounting or dismissal of findings from nonexperimental studies in favor of experimental studies that report the same findings.
  • Duflo’s main argument discussed in this paper is that while gender equality is desirable in its own right, it is better achieved through gender-neutral policies because gender-affirmative policies “distort” the allocative process and lead to efficiency costs.
  • Yet, these so-called distortions stem from historical structures that have curtailed women’s productive potential and protected male privilege.
  • In other words, patriarchal discrimination introduces structural costs that are unlikely to be visible when the focus is on individual economic actors.

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