We consider the prototype bifurcating T-junction planar flow and compare the stability of the steady two-dimensional flow field for a Newtonian and a shear thinning inelastic fluid. Global stability of the flow to two-dimensional perturbations is analyzed using numerical solutions of the linear perturbation equation. Calculations are performed for two flow ratios between the main channel and the bifurcating channel, and for two different values of the time constant in the non-Newtonian rheological model. The results show that although the steady flow remains stable to two-dimensional perturbations for Newtonian Reynolds number up to ∼ 400, shear thinning is destabilizing in that the decay rate of the perturbation field is slower. The perturbation growth rate curves for all of the different cases may be correlated by volume averaging the local Reynolds number over the flow domain, indicating that the effect of shear thinning on stability may be described using a suitably defined average Reynolds number. These stability results provide some justification for CFD calculations of steady non-Newtonian two-dimensional flows presented in earlier papers. Since scalar transport is of interest in this flow field, we also present some numerical calculations for the Nusselt number profile along the bifurcating channel wall. The results show that for the shear thinning fluid the scalar transport rate is differentially larger by ∼ 75% across one of the bifurcating channel walls, a consequence of fluid rheology enhancing the effect of flow asymmetry in the entrance region of the bifurcation.