The 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund dispensed death benefits for female victims that averaged only 63% of those for male victims. Why? Special Master Kenneth Feinberg was instructed to use a formula similar to that used in U.S. courts, taking victims’ estimated future earnings into account. For more details, see his fascinating book, What is Life Worth? (Public Affairs, 1995).
Most women know that having a child is costly and leaves them vulnerable to poverty. But most probably don’t know how these costs and risks actually measure up, especially considering important differences across women and their families. Even as you read this, highly-skilled researchers are figuring out how to “do the numbers.”
I’m in Paris for a meeting of a new Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. It’s a city that invites reflections on the past that can make the future shimmer. Walking down the Rue des Francs Bourgeois in the Marais I recall an essay contest sponsored by a group of learned French scholars in 1759. They asked, “Has intellectual and economic progress contributed to the moral improvement of humanity?” The winner, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (smiling enigmatically on the left), elaborated famously on his basic answer: non!
Every week, the journal Science complements its published articles with one or more “Perspectives” offering a brief and informal summary of research on an important topic. I was thrilled to be invited to submit one of these recently, and chose to focus on the impact of personal interactions and emotional connections on the economics of care services.
Most debates over family policy in the U.S. focus on comparisons with Europe, Canada, or Australia. But so much is happening in East Asia! The rapidity of fertility decline in Korea –combined with the mobilization of women’s groups there–has led to major new government initiatives.
At a Women’s World conference in Korea two years ago some community artists laid out a large piece of canvas on smooth ground, along with pencils, markers, and paints for passersby to express themselves. The resulting piece of collective art was tapestry-like, with a layered intricacy exceeding that of most renegade graffiti.