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On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough

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  • Alberto F. Alesina
  • Paola Giuliano
  • Nathan Nunn

Abstract

This paper seeks to better understand the historical origins of current differences in norms and beliefs about the appropriate role of women in society. We test the hypothesis that traditional agricultural practices influenced the historical gender division of labor and the evolution and persistence of gender norms. We find that, consistent with existing hypotheses, the descendants of societies that traditionally practiced plough agriculture, today have lower rates of female participation in the workplace, in politics, and in entrepreneurial activities, as well as a greater prevalence of attitudes favoring gender inequality. We identify the causal impact of traditional plough use by exploiting variation in the historical geo-climatic suitability of the environment for growing crops that differentially benefited from the adoption of the plough. Our IV estimates, based on this variation, support the findings from OLS. To isolate the importance of cultural transmission as a mechanism, we examine female labor force participation of second-generation immigrants living within the US.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17098.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Publication status: published as Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2013. "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 469-530.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17098

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  1. Stefania Albanesi & Claudia Olivetti, 2007. "Gender Roles and Technological Progress," Discussion Papers, Columbia University, Department of Economics 0607-12, Columbia University, Department of Economics.
  2. Alesina, Alberto F. & Algan, Yann & Cahuc, Pierre & Giuliano, Paola, 2010. "Family Values and the Regulation of Labor," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 7688, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Lawrence Katz & Jeffrey R. Kling & B. Jeffrey Liebman & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2004. "Moving to Opportunity and Tranquility: Neighborhood Effects on Adult Economic Self-Sufficiency and Health From a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," Working Papers, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section. 860, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman & Lawrence F. Katz & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2004. "Moving To Opportunity And Tranquility: Neighborhood Effects On Adult Economic Self-Sufficiency And Health From A Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," Working Papers, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing. 247, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  5. Clingingsmith, David & Khwaja, Asim Ijaz & Kremer, Michael, 2008. "Estimating the Impact of the Hajj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam’s Global Gathering," Working Paper Series, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government rwp08-022, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  6. Pitt, Mark M. & Rosenzweig, Mark R. & Hassan, Nazmul, 2010. "Human Capital Investment and the Gender Division of Labor in a Brawn-Based Economy," Working Papers, Yale University, Department of Economics 83, Yale University, Department of Economics.
  7. Nunn, Nathan & Puga, Diego, 2007. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 6253, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Mark Rosenzweig & Andrew D. Foster, . "Comparative Advantage, Information and the Allocation of Workers to Tasks: Evidence from an Agricultural Labor Market," Home Pages _066, University of Pennsylvania.
  9. Nicole M Fortin, 2005. "Gender Role Attitudes and the Labour-market Outcomes of Women across OECD Countries," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(3), pages 416-438, Autumn.
  10. Stelios Michalopoulos, 2011. "The Origins of Technolinguistic Diversity," Economics Working Papers, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science 0095, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  11. Rainald Borck, 2011. "Adieu Rabenmutter - The Effect of Culture on Fertility, Female Labour Supply, the Gender Wage Gap and Childcare," CESifo Working Paper Series 3337, CESifo Group Munich.
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  1. On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough
    by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2011-06-07 15:01:22
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