Kim Christensen

BA, Earlham College. PhD, University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Taught economics and women’s/gender studies (1985-2010) at SUNY-Purchase, where she received several awards for her teaching: four-time recipient of the Students’ Union Award for Outstanding Teaching in the Letters and Sciences; the first recipient of the President’s Award for Innovative Pedagogy; and, in 1992, recipient of the statewide SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Distinguished College Teaching. Christensen has taught economics, labor history, and public policy at Sarah Lawrence since 2008. Her research focuses on the intersection of economics with public policy issues, with a particular emphasis on issues of race, gender, class, and labor; e.g., the changes in diverse women’s occupational positions in the postwar era, the economics of campaign finance regulation, organizing precarious/gig workers, and proposals for worker representation in US corporations. SLC, 2008–

Undergraduate Courses 2021-2022

Economics

First-Year Studies: Working USA: American Workers in the Globalized Political Economy

Open, FYS—Year

Globalization, neoliberal political institutions, and information technology have created foundational changes in the structure and content of work, both in the United States and around the globe. These changes have also had an enormous impact on workers’ traditional modes of organizing and on their ability to pursue their economic and political interests. Today, only 6.7 percent of private-sector workers in the United States belong to unions. Partly as a result, inequality in the United States today rivals that of the pre-Depression 1920s, our (already modest) welfare state is in retreat, and political discourse and policy have become increasingly reflective of the interests of the wealthy. This course will explore the state of US workers (both native-born and immigrant) from the Civil War to the present. We’ll examine the major changes in the structure of the US economy (e.g., from small, competitive firms to huge, transnational oligopolies) and the implications of those changes on workers’ lives and the possibilities for organizing. We’ll explore the history of workers’ attempts to organize and the obstacles to their success, including divisions by race, gender, nativity, and sexual orientation/identity. We’ll examine recent efforts—such as worker centers, social movement unionism, and nonprofit organizing—to improve the conditions of workers outside a traditional union framework. And, time permitting, we’ll compare the state of the US labor movement with that of workers in selected countries. Requirements for the course include frequent short papers and periodic group presentations on the readings and a yearlong conference research project. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on the students’ needs and the progress of their conference projects. Required texts will include: Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor by Steven Greenhouse, The Southern Key: Class, Race, and Radicalism in the 1930s and 1940s by Michael Goldfield, To the Promised Land: Martin Luther King and the Fight for Economic Justice by Michael Honey, and Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards 1919-2019 by Eileen Boris.

Faculty

Introduction to Economic Theory and Policy

Open, Lecture—Year

Economics has a profound impact on all of our lives, from where we live and go to school to what we do for a living, what we eat, and how we entertain ourselves. Economics is also crucially intertwined with the social and political issues that we care about, from global climate change to poverty and discrimination. We begin this course with a brief history of the US economy, including the economic impact of slavery, unpaid household labor, and immigration. We then introduce a variety of approaches to economic analysis, including neoclassical, Keynesian, behavioral, Marxian, and feminist. Finally, we’ll apply those contrasting theoretical perspectives to current economic issues and controversies. Requirements include frequent, short, writing assignments and participation in both small-group work in class and group conferences.

Faculty

Previous Courses

Economics

Feminist Economics

Open, Seminar—Spring

Feminist economics arose as a critique of many of the fundamental assumptions underlying mainstream economics. For instance, feminist economics interrogates the androcentric and Eurocentric assumptions behind economics’ “homo economicus,” the supposedly autonomous individual who collects (freely available) unbiased information and makes rational decisions, self-interested in the market and altruistic in the home. Over the past 30 years, feminist economics has developed into coherent perspective in its own right. This approach acknowledges and investigates the existence of power differentials by race/ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, nation, and other variables in both the home and the market; it studies human behavior in relationship rather than as autonomous individuals; and it proposes policies to measure and to maximize the well-being of families and communities. This course will examine the underlying theoretical assumptions of this emerging paradigm and its application to questions of economic policy. Topics to be covered include: what we mean by “the economy,” which activities and transactions “count” (and “should count”) as economic, and the implications of these definitions; the role of unpaid caring labor and of publicly provided services to both individual economic success and national economic development; the persistence of both occupational segregation and wage differentials—explanations for and policies to mitigate these inequalities; the impact of domestic violence and other forms of nonmarket coercion on economic success; the conceptualization and measurement of economic development and success; and the capabilities approach and new measures of economic growth. In addition to class participation, requirements for the course will include frequent short essays on the readings and working in small groups to present those readings. In lieu of writing a conference paper, it may be possible for some students to engage in service-learning at My Sister's Place (a local domestic violence shelter) or another local feminist organization.

Faculty

Introduction to Economic Theory and Policy

Open, Lecture—Year

Economics has a profound impact on all of our lives, from where we live and go to school to what we do for a living, what we eat, and how we entertain ourselves. Economics is also crucially intertwined with the social and political issues that we care about, from global climate change to poverty and discrimination. We begin this course with a brief history of the US economy, including the economic roles of slavery, unpaid household labor, and immigration. We then introduce a variety of approaches to economic analysis, including neoclassical, Keynesian, behavioralist, Marxian, and feminist paradigms. We’ll pay particular attention to the US and international financial systems and their impact on global economic activity. Finally, we’ll apply contrasting theoretical perspectives to current economic issues and controversies.

Faculty

Political Economy of Women

Open, Seminar—Year

What factors determine the status of women in different societies and communities? What role is played by women’s labor, both inside and outside of the home? By cultural norms regarding sexuality and reproduction? By religious traditions? After a brief theoretical grounding, this course will address these questions by examining the economic, political, social, and cultural histories of women in the various racial/ethnic and class groupings that make up the United States. Topics to be explored include: the role of women in the Iroquois Confederation before white colonization and the factors that gave Iroquois women significant political and social power in their communities; the status of white colonist women in Puritan Massachusetts and the economic, religious, and other factors that led to the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692; the position of African American women under slavery, including the gendered and racialized divisions of labor and reproduction; the growth of competitive capitalism in the North and the development of the “cult of true womanhood” in the rising middle class; the economic and political changes that accompanied the Civil War and Reconstruction and the complex relationships between African American and white women in the abolitionist and women’s rights movements; the creation of a landless agricultural labor force and the attempts to assimilate Chicana women into the dominant culture via “Americanization” programs; the conditions that encouraged Asian women’s immigration and their economic and social positions once here; the American labor movement and the complicated role that organized labor has played in the lives of women of various racial/ethnic groups and classes; the impact of US colonial policies on Puerto Rican migration and Puerto Rican women’s economic and political status on both the island and the mainland; the economic/political convulsions of the 20th century—from the trusts of the early 1900s to World War II—and their impact on women’s paid and unpaid labor; the impact of changes in gendered economic roles on LGBT communities; the economic and political upheavals of the 1960s that led to the so-called “second wave” of the women’s movement; the gendered and racialized impact of the Great Recession and its aftermath; and the current position of women in the US economy and polity and the possibilities for inclusive public policies concerning gender and family issues. In addition to class participation, requirements include regular, short (1-2 pp.) essays on the readings and approximately a half-dozen longer essays that synthesize class materials with the written texts.

Faculty