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The Price of Independence: How the 1870 Married Women's Property Act Altered the Investment Risks Faced by Lower Middle Class British Women


  • Mary Beth Combs

    (Fordham University)


I examine wealth holding patterns of lower middle class women married in the years surrounding the 1870 Married Women's Property Act to determine whether a change in property law altered the implicit price of personal property purchased by married women. My results indicate that the Act altered the risk of expropriation of personal property investments and thus the implicit prices faced by women purchasing personal property. After the passage of the Act the implicit price of personal property purchased by women married after the Act fell by 40 percent. As a result, lower middle class women married after the Act transferred a substantial amount of their wealth into forms of personal property investments. At the time that women shifted their wealth away from real property the returns from real property were increasing while personal property returns remained constant. Women had no return-driven incentive to shift their wealth holding into forms of personal property.

Suggested Citation

  • Mary Beth Combs, 2004. "The Price of Independence: How the 1870 Married Women's Property Act Altered the Investment Risks Faced by Lower Middle Class British Women," Journal of Economic Insight (formerly the Journal of Economics (MVEA)), Missouri Valley Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 1-26.
  • Handle: RePEc:mve:journl:v:30:y:2004:i:2:p:1-26

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions


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