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Article

The Macroeconomics of Stratification  

Stephanie Seguino

Stratification economics, which has emerged as a new subfield of research on inequality, is distinguished by a system-level analysis. It explores the role of power in influencing the processes and institutions that produce hierarchical economic and social orderings based on ascriptive characteristics. Macroeconomic factors play a role in buttressing stratification, especially by race and gender. Among the macroeconomic policy levers that produce and perpetuate intergroup inequality are monetary policy, fiscal expenditures, exchange rate policy, industrial policy, and trade, investment, and financial policies. These policies interact with a stratification “infrastructure,” comprised of racial and gender ideologies, norms, and stereotypes that are internalized at the individual level and act as a “stealth” factor in reproducing hierarchies. In stratified societies, racial and gender norms and stereotypes act to justify various forms of exclusion from prized economic assets such as good jobs. For example, gendered and racial stereotypes contribute to job segregation, with subordinated groups largely sequestered in the secondary labor market where wages are low and jobs are insecure. The net effect is that subordinated groups serve as shock absorbers that insulate members of the dominant group from the impact of negative macroeconomic phenomena such as unemployment and economic volatility. Further, racial and gender inequality have economy-wide effects, and play a role in determining the rate of economic growth and overall performance of an economy. The impact of intergroup inequality on macro-level outcomes depends on a country’s economic structure. While under some conditions, intergroup inequality acts as a stimulus to economic growth, under other conditions, it undermines societal well-being. Countries are not locked into a path whereby inequality has a positive or negative effect on growth. Rather, through their policy decisions, countries can choose the low road (stratification) or the high road (intergroup inequality). Thus, even if intergroup inequality has been a stimulus to growth in the past, it is possible to choose an equity-led growth path.

Article

What Drives HIV in Africa? Addressing Economic Gender Inequalities to Close the HIV Gender Gap  

Aurélia Lépine, Henry Cust, and Carole Treibich

Ending HIV as a public health threat by 2030 presents challenges significantly different to those of the past 40 years. Initially perceived as a disease affecting gay men, today, HIV disproportionately affects adolescents and young women in Africa. Current strategies to prevent HIV mostly rely on using biomedical interventions to reduce the risk of infection during risky sex and to address that biologically; women are more vulnerable to HIV infection than men. Ongoing policies and strategies to end the AIDS epidemic in Africa are likely to fail if implemented alone, given they fail to address why vulnerable young women engage in risky sexual behaviors. Evidence strongly suggests economic vulnerability, rather than income level, is a primary driver of women's decision to engage in commercial and transactional sex. By viewing HIV through the lens of structural gender inequality, poverty, and use of risky sexual behaviors to cope with economic shocks, a new explanation for the HIV gender gap emerges. New and promising approaches to reduce HIV acquisition and transmission by protecting women from economic shocks and increasing their ability to participate in the economy have proven effective. Such interventions are vital to break the pattern of unequal HIV transmission against women and if HIV is to be beaten.