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New at Leuphana - Prof. Dr. Luise Görges: How gender influences economic inequality

2020-11-02 Why do men take parental leave shorter and less often than women, and how do couples divide their work? Economist Luise Görges examines the influence of social norms and gender on economic behavior and inequalities within society.

Luise Görges at the Leuphana Campus ©Leuphana/Marvin Sokolis
In her research Luise Görges examines questions concerning matters of Gender Economics.

After studying in Berlin and Warwick, Luise Görges received her doctorate at the University of Hamburg and was awarded the Gender Prize in 2019 for her doctoral thesis on "Economic Analysis of the Impact of Gender Norms and Female Labour Supply". In September of the same year she moved to the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER) as a postdoctoral fellow. Since October 2020 she is Junior Professor of Microeconomics at Leuphana.

"Preferences do not just fall from the sky. Preferences are influenced by the structures of society," says Luise Görges. In the political discussion, on the other hand, it is often assumed that gender differences in the labor market are based on individual preferences, and some argue that these are biologically determined and escape social influence. Luise Görges shares this view only to a limited extent: Individual preferences do play a significant role in individual decisions, but they are not negligible. It is precisely the external structures that influence these preferences and thus also economic behavior. "One of the most important gender-specific differences is the attachment to the labor market, with enormous consequences for economic inequality over the life course of men and women," says Luise Görges. While there are hardly any differences at the beginning of working life, they usually arise when people have children. This is partly due to the still very stereotypical notions of role distribution within the family, i.e. the preferences of individual family members to take on certain roles of family breadwinner, child carer, etc. In her current research, based on behavioural economics experiments with young couples, Luise Görges has shown that gender norms influence the distribution of roles even in the laboratory context.

However, economic research is also collecting more and more evidence that preferences for certain role distributions can change when policy makers create the framework conditions for alternative division of labor. A European comparison provides an example of this: In a current research project, Luise Görges and colleagues at the University of Hamburg are examining the connection between gender norms in the division of labor in the context of migration. What influence do the egalitarian conditions of the respective European destination country have on the behavior of young migrant women in terms of labor participation? Luise Görges notes a significant correlation: "The more egalitarian gender norms are in the respective country in which migrant women are socialized, the smaller the gender difference in labor force participation. Age also plays a decisive role: "The younger a child has come to an egalitarian country, the stronger the effect". That shows what effects egalitarian socialization has, independent of the institutional framework, i.e. what influences individual preferences.