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The Roots of Gender Inequality in Developing Countries

Author

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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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    Cited by:

    1. Rachel Heath & Seema Jayachandran, 2016. "The Causes and Consequences of Increased Female Education and Labor Force Participation in Developing Countries," NBER Working Papers 22766, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Sylvain Dessy & Setou Diarra & Roland Pongou, 2017. "Underage Brides and Grooms’ Education," Working Papers 1704E, University of Ottawa, Department of Economics.
    3. Leonardo Bursztyn & Thomas Fujiwara & Amanda Pallais, 2017. "'Acting Wife': Marriage Market Incentives and Labor Market Investments," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(11), pages 3288-3319, November.
    4. Mario Macis, 2017. "Gender differences in wages and leadership," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 323-323, January.
    5. Smriti Sharma & Christophe Nordman, 2016. "The power to choose Gender balance of power and intra-household educational spending in India," WIDER Working Paper Series 061, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    6. Utteeyo Dasgupta & Subha Mani & Smriti Sharma & Saurabh Singhal, 2017. "Can gender differences in distributional preferences explain gender gaps in competition?," WIDER Working Paper Series 090, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    7. Bhalotra, Sonia R. & Chakravarty, Abhishek & Gulesci, Selim, 2016. "The Price of Gold: Dowry and Death in India," IZA Discussion Papers 9679, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    8. Benyishay,Ariel & Jones,Maria Ruth & Kondylis,Florence & Mobarak,Ahmed Mushfiq, 2016. "Are gender differences in performance innate or socially mediated ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7689, The World Bank.
    9. Jack, Kelsey & Jayachandran, Seema & Rao, Sarojini, 2018. "Environmental externalities and free-riding in the household," CEPR Discussion Papers 12558, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    10. Julio J. Elías & Nicola Lacetera & Mario Macis & Paola Salardi, 2017. "Economic Development and the Regulation of Morally Contentious Activities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 107(5), pages 76-80, May.
    11. repec:ces:ifodic:v:15:y:2017:i:2:p:19337555 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. repec:bla:afrdev:v:29:y:2017:i:3:p:367-375 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Uchenna Efobi & Belmondo Tanankem & Simplice Asongu, 2018. "Female Economic Participation with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Advancement: Evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa," Working Papers 18/005, African Governance and Development Institute..
    14. repec:spr:jopoec:v:30:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s00148-017-0641-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Giuliano, Paola, 2017. "Gender: An Historical Perspective," CEPR Discussion Papers 12183, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    16. Dessy, Sylvain & Diarra, Setou & Pongou, Roland, 2017. "Underage Brides and Grooms' Education," MPRA Paper 77326, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. repec:ces:ifodic:v:15:y:2017:i:2:p:18-21 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Alexander Stimpfle & David Stadelmann, 2016. "Does Central Europe Import the Missing Women Phenomenon?," CREMA Working Paper Series 2016-04, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    19. repec:eee:wdevel:v:106:y:2018:i:c:p:299-323 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Pascaline Dupas & Edward Miguel, 2016. "Impacts and Determinants of Health Levels in Low-Income Countries," NBER Working Papers 22235, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    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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