Brenda Wyss

Professor of Economics
Coordinator of Development Studies


Phone: 508-286-3665

Fax: 508-286-3640


Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Amherst
B.A., University of Missouri, Columbia


I am particularly interested in issues of economic justice and I bring that commitment to my research, teaching, college service, and my life off campus. My central research focus is the gendered political economy of Jamaican households, especially the economics of raising children. I have also collaborated with US and Caribbean NGOs to analyze gendered impacts of trade liberalization, gender quotas for boards of directors, and gender differences in time use.

I strive to make economics exciting and accessible and to introduce students to a range of viewpoints, issues and questions often left out of economics courses. I’ve been teaching a course about women in the U.S. economy for thirty years. I also teach Foundations of Political Economy which highlights how power shapes the economy and economic outcomes.

I’ve worked with the Center for Popular Economics (CPE) since the 1980s, providing economic literacy training and analysis to social change activists and grassroots organizations. From 1994 to 1999, I was on the Board of Directors of Sojourner House, a Providence based organization serving victims of domestic violence and working to end domestic violence. More recently, I sat on the Brockton Public Schools Diversity Task Force. And I’m the faculty mentor for a fantastic group of Wheaton Posse Scholars.


“Gender & The Paid-Unpaid Labor Nexus in Urban Jamaica: Towards a Scorecard for Community Development.” With Linnette Vassell. 2019. Report of the Pilot Time Use Study Project, Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre, Kingston.

“Moving Rhode Island Forward on Pay Equity.” Co-authored with RI Women’s Policy Institute Fellows Gretchen Bell, Donna Childs, and Helen Mederer. May 9, 2016. Newport Daily News.

“Seats for the 51%: Beyond the Business Case for Corporate Board Quotas in Jamaica.” 2015. Review of Black Political Economy Volume 42, No. 2: 211-246.

“The Effect of Trade Liberalization on Jamaica’s Poor: An Analysis of Agriculture and Services.” 2004. Washington, DC: Women’s Edge Coalition.

“Global Poaching: Jamaica’s Brain Drain.” 2004. Econ-Atrocity Bulletin.

“Does ‘Women’s Work’ Boost Economic Output?” June 1, 2003. The Sunday Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica).

“Gender and Cash Child Support in Jamaica.” 2001. Review of Radical Political Economics, Special Issue on Feminist Economics, Volume 33: 415-439.

“Child Support.” 2000. In Meg Lewis and Janice Peterson (eds.). The Elgar Companion to Feminist Economics. (Edward Elgar Publishing, Ltd.). Excerpt republished in Lynne Dallas. 2004. Law and Public Policy: A Socioeconomic Approach. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.

“Culture and Gender in Household Economies: The Case of Jamaican Child Support Payments.” 1999. Feminist Economics, Volume 5, No. 2: 1-24.

“Making Connections: Women in the International Economy.” 1993. Co-authored with Radhika Balakrishnan. In Gerald Epstein, Julie Graham, and Jessica Nembhard (eds.). Creating a New World Economy: Forces of Change and Plans for Action. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press).

Working paper

Does Child Support Stick to Children? Evidence from Jamaica.

Select Talks and Presentations

Training session on gender budgets for staff of the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre, May 17, 2018, Kingston, Jamaica.

“The Care Economy” and “Smart Economics and the Business Case for Gender Equality: The 51% Coalition’s Quota Campaign.” Economic Literacy and Gender Budget Analysis Training Course for Civil Society, organized by the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre with support from UN Women. March 14, 2013. Kingston, Jamaica.

“Gender and the Jamaican Care Economy.” Guest lecture in “Gender, Sex & Society” course, University of the West Indies. March 14, 2013. Mona, Jamaica.

Care economy training session for community leaders, organized by Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre. March 13, 2013. Kingston, Jamaica.

“Culture and Jamaican Child Support.” Invited presentation at Commonwealth Caribbean Colloquium on Gender, Culture and the Law organized by the UN Women Caribbean Office, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture of the Government of Jamaica, and the Commonwealth Secretariat. June 21-23, 2011.    Kingston, Jamaica.

Interviewed by Julia Rendleman for Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting multi-media project, “Agriculture and Jamaica’s Rural Poor.” 2011.

Helped organize and co-facilitated a Gender and Trade Consultation co-sponsored by the International Gender and Trade Network and the Center for Popular Economics. 2005. Amherst, MA.

“The Invisible Heart: Gender, Globalization and the Economics of Caring in Jamaica.” W.D. Carter Library of Economic Development Lecture Series, 2003. Northern Caribbean University, Mandeville, Jamaica.

“Globalization and the Jamaican Care Economy.” Faculty Forum, Northern Caribbean University. 2003. Mandeville, Jamaica.

“Tougher than Tough: Women in the Jamaican Care Economy.” Peggy Howard Memorial Economics Lecture, Hampshire College. April 4, 2001. Amherst, MA.

“Gender and Cash Child Support in Jamaica.” Political Economy Workshop, Department of Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 1998.

“Scoundrel Dads and Spendthrift Moms: U.S. Child Support in International Context.” Lunchtime Talk Series, Murray Research Center, Radcliffe College. 1998. Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Teaching Interests

Courses I have taught recently at Wheaton College include the following:

  • Hedonism II to H2 Worker: U.S. Caribbean Relations (First Year Seminar)
  • Introduction to Microeconomics
  • Women in the U.S. Economy
  • Foundations of Political Economy
  • Economic Development
  • Global Economic Controversies (Senior Seminar)

I have also had a range of teaching opportunities away from Wheaton. Some of these involved “popular economics” teaching: co-facilitating sessions on economic globalization at the World Fellowship Center in New Hampshire in 2004, helping organize and facilitate a gender and trade consultation hosted by the International Gender and Trade Network and the Center for Popular Economics in 2005, teaching a care economy training session for community leaders in Kingston, Jamaica in 2013, and offering a training session on gender budgets for staff of the Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre in Kingston in 2018. In Spring 2003, I was a Fulbright scholar at Northern Caribbean University (NCU) in Mandeville, Jamaica where I co-taught the course, Caribbean Economic Problems, with NCU colleague, Garth Campbell. In Spring 2015, I served as the Resident Program Director for Wheaton’s study abroad program at Royal Thimphu College in Bhutan.


Student Projects


Mars Student/Faculty Research Collaboration 2005. “The Temporary Teacher Trade: A Study of Caribbean Female Teachers in New York City’s Public Schools,” with Hyun Sook Kim and Leykia Brill ’06.

Wheaton Research Partnership 2004-2005. “Caribbean Teachers in New York City’s Public Schools,” with Hyun Sook Kim, Dania Diaz ’07, Erika Lugo ’07 and Derron (J.R.) Wallace ’07.

Mars Student/Faculty Research Collaboration 2004. “Caribbean Teachers in New York City’s Public Schools,” with Hyun Sook Kim and Orly Clerge ’05.

Student/faculty research collaboration 2002. “A Study of the Family in Jamaica,” in Mandeville, Jamaica with Michelle Harris, Tom Clarke ’02, Sarah Biolsi ’02, Winston Benjamin ’04, and Orly Clerge ’05.

Senior Theses Chaired

Jackson Towle. “The value of the Canadian index of wellbeing.” 2016. Economics Honors Thesis.

Xiaorui Wei. “Travelling to the urban promise: theorizing the relation between labor migration and gender division of labor in Chinese households.” Economics Honors Thesis. 2014. (co-chair)

Kim Nash. “The Washington consensus re-examined: the case of Mexico.” Economics Honors Thesis. 2012.

Jonathan Durkee, “Ecotourism as a means for economic diversification in Botswana: a critical analysis of the Botswana national ecotourism strategy and its prospects for development.” Economics Honors Thesis. 2010. (co-chair)

Kendra Leith. “The economic impacts of bilingual education in Ecuador.” Economics Honors Thesis. 2006. (co-chair)

Misty McCarty. “Sexual harassment : responses and consequences (a sociological and economic study).” Thesis for Independent Major in Socioeconomics.1998. (co-chair)

Research Interests

My goal as a scholar is to make a positive difference, however small, in the lives of economically marginalized groups. My doctoral program taught political economy alongside the dominant neoclassical approach to economics and my research employs concepts and tools from both paradigms. As a graduate student in the 1980s, I became part of the growing group of political and mainstream economists interested in how gender has shaped the discipline of economics and real world economies. I have been a member of the International Association for Feminist Economics (IAFFE) from its inception. My research in the Anglophone Caribbean has heightened my interest in and commitment to better understanding constructs of race and racism, colonialism and neo-colonialism, and to analyzing gendered economics intersectionally.

Much of my research looks at economic aspects of families and households. I am interested in how families provide for children. Who pays the financial costs of their upbringing? And who devotes time and energy to their care (i.e. who pays the opportunity costs)? Women’s disproportionate responsibility for childrearing is a major reason for gender differences in employment and other economic outcomes. It also helps explain high rates of child poverty in many countries, including the United States.

I have valued learning and employing a wide variety of research methods. My dissertation research involved both statistical analysis of a nationally representative data set and also ethnographic research “in the field” in Kingston, Jamaica. Since then, I have designed and fielded a household survey in the Manchester parish of Jamaica (in collaboration with sociologist Michelle Harris and Wheaton and Jamaican students), interviewed Jamaican community leaders, government officials, and scholars for a trade impact review published by the Women’s Edge Coalition, had conversations with West Indian teachers working in the New York City schools (in collaboration with sociologist Hyun Kim and Wheaton students), and co-designed (with Jamaican community development and gender specialist Linnette Vassell) a participatory research project collecting time diaries from urban Kingston households.