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Studying How Work, Leisure and Home Influence Each Other


Thursday, June 17, 2021
Betsey Stevenson, professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan’s Ford School.

Betsey Stevenson, professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan’s Ford School.

Studying the interconnectedness of work, family and home has been a passion for Betsey Stevenson, a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

“Economists typically talk about the tradeoff between work and leisure, ... but what people are really thinking about is work for pay, work at home, leisure,” she said. “And they have to make choices about how they’re going to allocate their time across those three things.”

Allocating time forces people to make decisions on such things as child care, family size and career plans, the labor economist pointed out.

“All these decisions are going to be interrelated, and that’s something I’ve always been very interested in,” she said.

In a Women in Economics Podcast Series episode, Stevenson talked about her research, the #MeToo movement and its impact on the field of economics, the importance of diversity and her efforts to create gender-balanced textbooks. (The episode includes a transcript of the interview.)

Stevenson also pointed out that decisions about pay, work at home and leisure aren’t made in isolation. As a society, we make choices that can affect the decisions of individuals, she said.

“For example, making high-quality child care easily and cheaply available to families could end up changing both how much women work, encouraging them to work more, and encouraging them to have more children because they can afford them.”

The connection between economics and public policy is a longstanding interest of Stevenson, who has been a member of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers and the chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor.

“My positions in government have been about trying to use the ideas of economics to make good policy choices for the American public,” she said.

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