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Women's Liberation: What's in It for Men?

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  • Matthias Doepke
  • Michèle Tertilt

Abstract

The nineteenth century witnessed dramatic improvements in the legal rights of married women. Given that they took place long before women gained the right to vote, these changes amounted to a voluntary renunciation of power by men. In this paper, we investigate men's incentives for sharing power with women. In our model, women's legal rights set the marital bargaining power of husbands and wives. We show that men face a trade-off between the rights they want for their own wives (namely none) and the rights of other women in the economy. Men prefer other men's wives to have rights because men care about their own daughters and because an expansion of women's rights increases educational investments in children. We show that men may agree to relinquish some of their power once technological change increases the importance of human capital. We corroborate our argument with historical evidence on the expansion of women's rights in England and the United States.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthias Doepke & Michèle Tertilt, 2009. "Women's Liberation: What's in It for Men?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(4), pages 1541-1591.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:124:y:2009:i:4:p:1541-1591.
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1162/qjec.2009.124.4.1541
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    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • E13 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General Aggregative Models - - - Neoclassical
    • 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
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth

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