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The Supply of Gender Stereotypes and Discriminatory Beliefs

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  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Yueran Ma

Abstract

What determines beliefs about the ability and appropriate role of women? An overwhelming majority of men and women born early in the 20th century thought women should not work; a majority now believes that work is appropriate for both genders. Betty Friedan (1963) postulated that beliefs about gender were formed by consumer good producers, but a simple model suggests that such firms would only have the incentive to supply error, when mass persuasion is cheap, when their products complement women’s time in the household, and when individual producers have significant market power. Such conditions seem unlikely to be universal, or even common, but gender stereotypes have a long history. To explain that history, we turn to a second model where parents perpetuate beliefs out of a desire to encourage the production of grandchildren. Undersupply of female education will encourage daughters’ fertility, directly by reducing the opportunity cost of their time and indirectly by leading daughters to believe that they are less capable. Children will be particularly susceptible to persuasion if they overestimate their parents’ altruism toward themselves. The supply of persuasion will diminish if women work before childbearing, which may explain why gender-related beliefs changed radically among generations born in the 1940s.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19109.

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Date of creation: Jun 2013
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Publication status: Forthcoming: The Supply of Gender Stereotypes and Discriminatory Beliefs , Edward L. Glaeser, Yueran Ma. in Human Capital in History: The American Record , Boustan, Frydman, and Margo. 2014
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19109

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  1. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709, Octomber.
  2. Robert A. Margo, 1990. "Segregated Schools and the Mobility Hypothesis: A Model of Local Government Discrimination," NBER Historical Working Papers 0017, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Claudia Goldin, 2006. "The Quiet Revolution that Transformed Women's Employment, Education, and Family," NBER Working Papers 11953, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Goldin, Claudia, 2006. "The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women’s Employment, Education, and Family," Scholarly Articles 2943933, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Francine Blau & Peter Brummund & Albert Liu, 2013. "Trends in Occupational Segregation by Gender 1970–2009: Adjusting for the Impact of Changes in the Occupational Coding System," Demography, Springer, vol. 50(2), pages 471-492, April.
  6. Glaeser, Edward L. & Ujhelyi, Gergely, 2010. "Regulating misinformation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(3-4), pages 247-257, April.
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