Nancy Folbre

Nancy Folbre

Nancy Folbre (born 1952[1]) is a feminist economist who focuses on economics and the family, non-market work and the economics of care.

She is currently an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.[2]

She was elected president of the International Association for Feminist Economists in 2002, and has been an associate editor of the journal Feminist Economics since 1995.



Folbre focuses on the economics of care, which she defines as, “work that involves connecting to other people, trying to help people meet their needs, things like the work of caring for children, caring for the elderly, caring for sick people or teaching is a form of caring labor,” and she adds that caring labor can be paid or unpaid.[3] Folbre argues that mainstream economists do not pay enough attention to the economics of care. This is detrimental to women because the exclusion of non-market and care work from mainstream economic analysis can marginalize women and children and undervalue their contributions to the home and the community.

Care is a unique form of work because it is “intrinsically motivated,” in that not just money motivates people to care.[4] Folbre argues that care work has been historically undervalued because it has been historically provided by women at low or no cost, and goes far to explain why women earn less than men. To this end, Folbre questions why women would even take care jobs and argues that the social construction of femininity links femininity and care. Folbre argues that only by working collectively to ensure a greater supply and quality of care, independent of the market, can we ensure that the responsibility of care is equitably distributed and not disproportionately placed upon women.

In her well-known book The Invisible Heart, Folbre explores the market and the individualistic competition that it engenders, and argues that the necessary care of elders and children is not provided in the market, yet is still absolutely necessary for society. Historically women have provided this care, whether as non-market work or low-paying market work. Folbre examines the social and governmental structures that support and provide for care, and their evolution throughout history. She concludes with the answer that we all have a responsibility to care for others, and provides a vision for the future in which care and care work are given greater priority and support.

Folbre has also written extensively on the social organization of time, namely the time allotted to care for children and the elderly and how family policies and social institutions limit the choices people can make between paid and unpaid work.

Folbre has her blog, 'Care Talk' coordinating research on care provision. . She also is a contributor to the New York Times Economix blog .


Folbre received a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Texas in 1971, an M.A. in Latin American studies from UT in 1973, and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Massachusetts in 1979.[5]

Professional achievements

Folbre was awarded a Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship by the Yale University Economic Growth center in 1979-1980. From 1995-1996 she received the French-American Foundation Fellowship for teaching and research in Paris. In 1999 she was awarded the Olivia Shieffelin Nordberg Award for Excellence in Writing and Editing in the Population Sciences, and in April 2004 she was named the Charlotte Perkins Gilman Fellow at the American Academy of Political and Social Science.

In 1989 Folbre was awarded a National Science Foundation grant to study Women’s Work and Women’s Households in Western Massachusetts between 1880-1910. She was awarded a five- year fellowship with the MacArthur Foundation in 1998, and the Leontief Prize of the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University in 2004.

Professional involvements

She was elected president of the International Association for Feminist Economists in 2002, and has been an associate editor of the journal Feminist Economics since 1995.

As of 2004 she was a member of the National Academy of Science Panel, which studied the design of non-market accounts. She has been a board member of the Foundation for Child Development since 2000, a member of the National Advisory Commission of Child Care and Early Education as well as the National Organization for Women Legal Defense and Education Fund since 2004.

Book publications

In addition to numerous articles, reports, reviews and books chapters, Folbre has published the following books:[6]

  • (with Randy Albelda and the Center for Popular Economics.) The War on the Poor: A Defense Manual. New York: The New Press, 1996.
  • (with James Heintz and the Center for Popular Economics). The Ultimate Field Guide to the U.S. Economy. New York: The New Press, 2000
  • The Invisible Heart: Economics and Family Values. New York: The New Press, 2001. ISBN 9781565846555
  • Family Time: The Social Organization of Care. New York: Routledge, 2004
  • Greed, Lust and Gender: A History of Economic Ideas . Oxford University Press, November 2009.[7] ISBN 978-0-19-923842-2


  1. ^ Date information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, via corresponding WorldCat Identities linked authority file (LAF) .
  2. ^ Nancy Folbre Bio / MacArthur Network on the Family and the Economy
  3. ^ Folbre, Nancy “Caring Labor.” Transcription of a video by Oliver Ressler, recorded in Amherst, U.S.A., 20 min., 2003.
  4. ^ Folbre, Nancy “Caring Labor.” Transcription of a video by Oliver Ressler, recorded in Amherst, U.S.A., 20 min., 2003.
  5. ^ Nancy Folbre - Home
  6. ^ Nancy Folbre - VITA
  7. ^ Oxford University Press: Greed, Lust and Gender: Nancy Folbre

External links

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