The Scope of the Topics and Materials. We know a lot about gender inequality – its history, how people experience it in their lives, the ways it varies in intensity and form across time and place, the beliefs that make it seem natural, and much more. The outpouring of research and commentary on gender inequality over the past half century has been extraordinary. Unfortunately, despite all this, our understanding of what causes gender inequality remains troubled. Both ordinary people and experts (such as scholars) commonly fluctuate between simplistic explanations that founder under close scrutiny and throwing up their hands in frustration over what can seem an enigma beyond human comprehension. Here we will seek to surmount this dilemma. We will explore diverse facets of gender inequality and varied ideas about what causes might be decisive. We will also look carefully at the ways we can identify and verify the causes of social phenomena. Through these efforts we will aim both to enhance our understanding of what produces gender inequality and to improve our general ability to do causal social analyses effectively.
The class organization and goals. In this class, each week's work will be organized around an analytical task, as well as a set of readings. Rather than focusing on discussion of the readings, the analytical tasks involve attempting a causal analysis of some aspect of gender inequality related to the week's issue, building on the materials we read (in brief papers of a couple pages). The approach in this class seeks to develop analytical skills as well as understandings of the relevant literature by stressing doing actual analyses of gender inequality. (Note: this class does not have an exam nor a final paper.)