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Women's Rights and Development

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  • Raquel Fernandez

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    (New York University)

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    Abstract

    Why has the expansion of women's economic and political rights coincided with economic development? This paper investigates this question, focusing on a key economic right for women: property rights. The basic hypothesis is that the process of development (i.e., capital accumulation and declining fertility) exacerbated the tension in men's conflicting interests as husbands versus fathers, ultimately resolving them in favor of the latter. As husbands, men stood to gain from their privileged position in a patriarchal world whereas, as fathers, they were hurt by a system that afforded few rights to their daughters. The model predicts that declining fertility would hasten reform of women's property rights whereas legal systems that were initially more favorable to women would delay them. The theoretical relationship between capital and the relative attractiveness of reform is non-monotonic but growth inevitably leads to reform. I explore the empirical validity of the theoretical predictions by using cross-state variation in the US in the timing of married women obtaining property and earning rights between 1850 and 1920.

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    File URL: http://humcap.uchicago.edu/RePEc/hka/wpaper/Fernandez_2010_womens-rights.pdf
    File Function: First version, August 2010
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Human Capital and Economic Opportunity Working Group in its series Working Papers with number 2011-029.

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    Date of creation: Aug 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:hka:wpaper:2011-029

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    1. Graziella Bertocchi, 2008. "The Enfranchisement of Women and the Welfare State," Center for Economic Research (RECent) 018, University of Modena and Reggio E., Dept. of Economics.
    2. Andrew J. Oswald & Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2010. "Daughters and Left-Wing Voting," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(2), pages 213-227, May.
    3. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "New Estimates of Child Mortality during the Late Nineteenth Century," NBER Chapters, in: Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America, pages 49-87 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Thomas Gall & Patrick Legros & Andrew F. Newman, 2009. "Mis-match, Re-match, and Investment," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-189, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    5. Galor, Oded & Moav, Omer, 2001. "Das Human Kapital," CEPR Discussion Papers 2701, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Iyigun, Murat & Walsh, Randall P., 2005. "Building the Family Nest: Pre-Marital Investments, Marriage Markets and Spousal Allocations," IZA Discussion Papers 1752, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    7. Scott L. Baier & Gerald P. Dwyer & Robert Tamura, 2006. "How Important are Capital and Total Factor Productivity for Economic Growth?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(1), pages 23-49, January.
    8. Samuel H. Preston & Michael R. Haines, 1991. "The Social and Medical Context of Child Mortality in the Late Nineteenth Century," NBER Chapters, in: Fatal Years: Child Mortality in Late Nineteenth-Century America, pages 3-48 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Iyigun, Murat & Walsh, Randall P., 2007. "Endogenous gender power, household labor supply and the demographic transition," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 138-155, January.
    10. Murphy, Kevin M & Simon, Curtis & Tamura, Robert, 2008. "Fertility decline, baby boom and economic growth," MPRA Paper 7719, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Lena Edlund & Rohini Pande, 2002. "Why Have Women Become Left-Wing? The Political Gender Gap And The Decline In Marriage," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 917-961, August.
    12. Lagerlöf, Nils-Petter, 2003. "Slavery and other property rights," MPRA Paper 372, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 30 Aug 2006.
    13. Michael R. Haines & Allen C. Goodman, 1991. "A Home of One's Own: Aging and Homeownership in the United States in the late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries," NBER Historical Working Papers 0021, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Michèle Tertilt, 2006. "Polygyny, Women's Rights, and Development," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(2-3), pages 523-530, 04-05.
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