What Do Women Want: Feminism and the Progressive Income Tax


Kornhauser, Marjorie E. 1997. "What Do Women Want: Feminism and the Progressive Income Tax." American University Law Review 47 (1): 151-64. 

Author: Marjorie Kornhauser


In 1987 I published an article in which I suggested that many philosophies or world views could support a progressive income tax, including a feminist view. (The Rhetoric of the Anti-Progressive Income Tax Movement: A Typical Male Reaction, 86 MICH. L. REV. 465 (1987)). Nearly 10 years later, William Turnier, Pamela Johnston Conover, and David Lowery undertook an empirical study to test whether the feminine voice, and in particular an ethos of care, actually supports progressive taxation. (Redistributive Justice and Cultural Feminism, 45 AM. U. L. REV. 1275 (1996)). They concluded that support for progressive taxation among women exceeds that among men by only “a very narrow margin”. As a result of this alleged contradiction between their empirical findings and the theoretical claims, they argued that research should focus on empirical studies rather than theory.
Are these two articles contradictory, and if so, which article is correct? Do women support progressive taxation? How do we prove (or disprove) it? Has the Turnier et al study proved that women do not support progressivity significantly more than men? Have they, therefore, discredited the feminist ethos of care and the role of theory?
This brief rejoinder explains why the Turnier study fails to disprove feminist theoretical claims concerning progressivity. Furthermore, even if the study did disprove these claims, the rejoinder rejects their conclusion that research should focus on empirical studies rather than theory. Theory in general, and “outsider” theory such as feminism in particular, remains a valuable tool for increasing knowledge and understanding.

Keywords: feminism, progressive income taxation, jurisprudence, legal scholarship, progressivity, tax policy

Topics: Economies, Public Finance, Feminisms, Gender, Women

Year: 1997

© 2023 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.