2015—Nancy Folbre

Photo of Nancy Folbre
Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Director, Political Economy Research Institute’s Program on Gender and Care Work

Nancy Folbre is Professor Emerita of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the new Director of the Political Economy Research Institute’s Program on Gender and Care Work.  A distinguished social scientist, Professor Folbre’s research explores the intersections of political economy and feminist theory, with a focus on caring work and other forms of non-market work. Her work on female labor force issues and the economics of family care has advanced the discipline of economics  and broadened its scope to investigate a topic that has implications for all members of society. Indeed, her scholarship has prompted a fundamental reevaluation of the way economists, sociologists, and other social scientists think about the meaning of labor and about the linkage between family and the economy.

Nancy Folbre has published numerous books on topics that range from gender in the history of economic ideas (Greed, Lust, and Gender: A History of Economic Ideas, Oxford, 2009) to current care-sector policies in the United States (For Love and Money: Care Provision in the U.S., Russell Sage, 2012) to the political economy of parenting (Valuing Children: Rethinking the Economics of the Family, Harvard 2008). In one of her most influential books, The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values (New Press, 2001), Professor Folbre analyzes society’s invisible cooperative labor within families and competitive self-interested pursuits in labor markets and the changing balance between these spheres.  She has also published vastly in a variety of highly respected journals, including Science, American Economic Review, Demography, Politics and Society, and Review of Radical Political Economics.

Professor Folbre’s distinguished university career includes thirty years at the University of Massachusetts, an incubator of heterodox economics. During this time, she held visiting appointments at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the Gender Institute of the London School of Economics, and the Political Theory Department of the Australian National University. She has also served as consultant for several United Nations departments, the World Bank, and the International Labor Office; served on a National Academy panel on the measurement and valuation of non-market work; and worked on the “Stiglitz Commission” report on the development of alternative measures of economic output.

For her work, Folbre has earned recognition in the form of several prestigious awards and grants. In addition to a MacArthur Foundation award, she received a Russell Sage Foundation fellowship (2005-06), the Leontief Prize of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University (2004), and a National Science Foundation grant (1989). She has also served as co-chair of MacArthur’s research network on Family and the Economy and Russell Sage Foundation’s Working Group on Care Work.

In addition to her academic scholarship, Nancy Folbre has contributed to the public discourse through her weekly blog for the New York Times (2009-14) and through articles in magazines and periodicals, including The Nation and The American Prospect. She also won wide acclaim for her book Saving State U: Why We Must Fix Public Higher Education (New Press 2010).