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Does religion curtail women during booms? Evidence from resource discoveries


  • Joslin, Knut-Eric
  • Nordvik, Frode Martin


Female employment rates vary systematically across the world. Some of the lowest rates are observed in the Middle East and the Arab states. But what explains this pattern? In this paper, we ask whether religion — and in particular Islam — curbs women’s employment during economic booms. To credibly address this question, we combine data on the unanticipated timing of giant oil and gas discoveries with a measure of Islamic prevalence prior to the oil era. Employing a dynamic event study model on a sample of 126 countries, we show that a giant resource discovery depresses female employment by more than two percentage units in Muslim countries. In non-Muslim countries, we find that a discovery has a neutral to positive effect on female participation in the long run. We attribute the loss of female employment in Muslim countries to the presence of religious laws restraining women’s mobility.

Suggested Citation

  • Joslin, Knut-Eric & Nordvik, Frode Martin, 2021. "Does religion curtail women during booms? Evidence from resource discoveries," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 187(C), pages 205-224.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:187:y:2021:i:c:p:205-224
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2021.04.026

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    Cited by:

    1. Koyama, Mark, 2022. "Introduction to the special issue on culture, institutions, and religion in economic history," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 201(C), pages 105-114.

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    More about this item


    Female labour; Natural resources; Islam;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics
    • N5 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries


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