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The Role of Women in Society: from Preindustrial to Modern Times


  • Paola Giuliano


The participation of women in agriculture and the role of women in society in the preindustrial period were remarkably different across ethnicities and strongly related to the type of agricultural technology adopted historically. The sexual division of labor was broadly associated to two technological regimes: shifting cultivation, where the majority of agricultural work was done by women, and plough cultivation, a system mostly dominated by men. In this article, we review the literature on the persistent effect of the impact of historical plough use on female labor force participation and fertility today. We also provide additional evidence showing that differences regarding the role of women across the two agricultural regimes were more general and persisted over time in other societal aspects, including the form of marital arrangements, the presence of polygamy and the freedom of movement enjoyed by women. (JEL codes: D03, J16, N30)

Suggested Citation

  • Paola Giuliano, 2015. "The Role of Women in Society: from Preindustrial to Modern Times," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 61(1), pages 33-52.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cesifo:v:61:y:2015:i:1:p:33-52.

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    Cited by:

    1. Giuliano, Paola, 2017. "Gender: An Historical Perspective," IZA Discussion Papers 10931, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • N30 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - General, International, or Comparative


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