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The Roots of Gender Inequality in Developing Countries

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  • Seema Jayachandran

    () (Department of Economics, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208)

Abstract

Is the high degree of gender inequality in developing countries—in education, personal autonomy, and more—explained by underdevelopment itself? Or do the societies that are poor today hold certain cultural views that lead to gender inequality? This article discusses several mechanisms through which gender gaps narrow as countries grow. I argue that although much of the GDP/gender-inequality relationship can be explained by the process of development, society-specific factors are also at play: Many countries that are poor today have cultural norms that exacerbate favoritism toward males. Norms such as patrilocality and concern for women’s “purity” help explain the male-skewed sex ratio in India and China and low female employment in India, the Middle East, and North Africa, for example. I also discuss why the sex ratio has become more male-skewed with development. Finally, I lay out some policy approaches to address gender inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Seema Jayachandran, 2015. "The Roots of Gender Inequality in Developing Countries," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 7(1), pages 63-88, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:anr:reveco:v:7:y:2015:p:63-88
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    File URL: http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-economics-080614-115404
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    Keywords

    gender discrimination; economic development; cultural norms; son preference;

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O14 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Industrialization; Manufacturing and Service Industries; Choice of Technology
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration

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