Associate Professor of Economics Judith McKinney has been awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant to conduct research in Russia this semester. Currently in Yaroslavl, a city northeast of Moscow, McKinney is focusing on the experiences of women who worked in the provincial Soviet city in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
McKinney is particularly interested in the ways in which the women navigated their roles in the “three economies”-official, unofficial and household-during the period when the Soviet Union was going through the major changes of perestroika, dissolution and shift from planning to market relations. The results of her work will contribute to a number of fields, including transition economies, feminist economics, gender studies and Russian area studies.
She is spending three months in Yaroslavl, affiliated with the Yaroslavl International University of Business and New Technology, interviewing women in the city. Her questions address the women’s responses to changes in responsibilities at work and at home, changes in the provision of benefits, and experiences with wage arrears, unemployment, second jobs and productive activity outside the market.
“One of the intriguing paradoxes of the economic transition in Russia is the way in which greater emphasis on the market in the official economy was accompanied by coping mechanisms that involved avoiding the market by relying more heavily on the household economy (for example, by growing food for one’s own consumption),” explains McKinney.
She chose Yaroslavl as the site of her project because it is a medium-sized provincial city with a varied economy.
“This is the sort of environment in which the majority of the Russian population lives, and the opportunities and challenges in such places are quite different from those in Moscow and St. Petersburg on the one hand or in rural Russia on the other,” says McKinney.
McKinney returns to campus in the spring and will draw on the experiences of her interviews, as well as her own experiences, in Yaroslavl to make the concepts and statistics real for her students. She also anticipates her research will encourage “even more of our majors to aspire to spend time studying in immersion programs in Russia.”
A member of the HWS faculty since 1979, McKinney earned an A.B., summa cum laude, from Middlebury College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Indiana University. Her fields of specialization include international economics and Russian and Soviet area studies. Recently, her research interests have become more focused on the lives of women, children, and the elderly as groups with the least political power and the fewest economic resources. In the summer of 2010, she participated in a SUNY Stony Brook Russian language program in Astrakhan in Southern Russia, near the Caspian Sea.
She previously spent time in Yaroslavl as part of a sabbatical in 2005, volunteering with Cross-Cultural Solutions (working at orphanages, visiting women in nursing homes and helping at a recreation program for veterans of World War II).
In the photo above, Associate Professor of Economics Judith McKinney (center) poses with Natasha and Olga, women she interviewed as part of her research.