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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: June 2014

2 - Social Norms in Economics and in the Economics Profession


My Formative Years

I probably became an economist when I was five years old, walking my beloved maid Nazarene to catch her bus.

Skipping along, I said, “I want to be Alice in Wonderland. It’s a great movie. You’ve got to see it.”

Nazarene replied, “Clair, I can’t go see it.”

Puzzled, I asked, “Why not?”

“’’Cause it’s playing at the whites’ theater. They don’t allow coloreds in.”

Confused, I started noticing many other things that didn’t make sense – Nazarene’s worn-out sandals, her walking to the back of the bus after she got on, her drinking out of a dif erent water fountain at the grocery store.

Nazarene gave me a good start in life with her loving care, her patience, and her wisdom. She also unknowingly taught me how the world set up rules that were grossly unfair, and yet people followed them as if they were fair and reasonable. Nazarene prepared me to question discrimination against women as well as people of color, and taught me through example not to take injury incurred through discrimination personally. Years later these childhood lessons gave me the courage to go into a profession that was not welcoming to women.

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