While a century ago, institutional economists like Thorstein Veblen recognized gender norms as important institutions in the economy, today this particular type of institution receives less attention in institutional analysis. At the same time, feminist economists have found the notion of an institution useful for the analysis of the relationships between gender and the economy. We will argue that the understanding of gender norms as institutions necessitates a distinction between institutions that have similar effects for everyone and institutions that have asymmetric effects, that is, systematically different effects on different groups. We will illustrate our argument with a case study on the livelihoods of Yoruba women in Nigeria. The case study will show how gender norms result in an asymmetric institutional setting for women and men, even when norms about women’s labor force participation, individual control over income, and partners’ contribution to the household budget are symmetric. The article will conclude that an understanding of some institutions as asymmetric will enable both institutional analysis and household analysis to include attention to power, ideology, and change more systematically.

Nigeria, Yoruba women, gender norms
ISS Staff Group 0
Journal of Economic Issues (JEI)
International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)

van Staveren, I.P, & Odebode, O. (2007). Gender Norms as Asymmetric Institutions: A Case Study of Yoruba Women in Nigeria. Journal of Economic Issues (JEI), 41(4), 903–925. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/21567