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Good for girls or bad for boys? Schooling, social inequality and intrahousehold allocation in early twentieth century Finland

Author

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  • Sakari Saaritsa

    () (Economic and Social History, Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki)

  • Antti Kaihovaara

    () (Economic and Social History, Department of Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki)

Abstract

Apart from the commonly emphasized historical or cultural explanations, was there an economics behind the early, extensive schooling of girls in Europe’s Nordic periphery? This article analyses factors behind the emerging female majority in secondary schooling in early twentieth century Finland through resource allocation within households. We argue that a significant part of the female educational advantage can be explained with a classic unitary Beckerian schooling investment model. We apply an Engel specification widely used in development economics to a household budget dataset from the 1920s to estimate the effect of the age and gender of children on schooling investment across social groups. We find a pro-girl bias among households of low socio-economic status, explained primarily by the sizable penalty to boys caused by opportunity costs and expected returns. Worker boys could generate significant income from an early age, making their education initially expensive for cash-constrained families. Contrary to previous claims, the dropout rates of boys were also higher than those of girls. Together with a propensity to leave home earlier, this lowered the expected net returns to schooling. Meanwhile, the expansion of modern services created attractive job opportunities for secondary educated girls. We find no evidence of intrahousehold bargaining. The findings resemble certain cases in development economics and the economic history of advanced countries including the USA. Rather than matching with patterns of anti-girl discrimination in many developing countries, our results highlight the prehistory of the currently emerging pattern of female educational advantage—and male disadvantage—in OECD countries.

Suggested Citation

  • Sakari Saaritsa & Antti Kaihovaara, 2016. "Good for girls or bad for boys? Schooling, social inequality and intrahousehold allocation in early twentieth century Finland," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 10(1), pages 55-98, january.
  • Handle: RePEc:afc:cliome:v:10:y:2016:i:1:p:55-98
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11698-014-0123-9
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:oup:ereveh:v:21:y:2017:i:2:p:159-184. is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Bhalotra, Sonia R. & Karlsson, Martin & Nilsson, Therese & Schwarz, Nina, 2016. "Infant Health, Cognitive Performance and Earnings: Evidence from Inception of the Welfare State in Sweden," IZA Discussion Papers 10339, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Gender Education Labour Intrahousehold allocation Engel model;

    JEL classification:

    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality
    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • I26 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Returns to Education
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • N34 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: 1913-

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