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Occupational, Marital, and Life-Cycle Determinants of Women's Labor Force Participation in Mid Nineteenth-Century Rural France


  • George Grantham


The French population census of 1851 is unique among France's nineteenth- and early twentieth-century censuses, as it is the only census to provide information on the market-oriented work of women and children within and outside the home. This study utilizes that information to analyze the demographic, structural, and economic determinants of women's labor force participation in a sample of rural communes in northern France. The data reveal an industrious population in which two-thirds to three-quarters of women in farm families engaged in market-oriented work. The data suggest that women were pushed rather than pulled into the rural labor force, and that poverty was the primary factor driving rural women's participation. The census data throw statistical light on the labor market participation rates of women and children in a preindustrial setting and are likely to produce major revisions in understandings of productivity growth in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France.

Suggested Citation

  • George Grantham, 2012. "Occupational, Marital, and Life-Cycle Determinants of Women's Labor Force Participation in Mid Nineteenth-Century Rural France," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(4), pages 97-119, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:femeco:v:18:y:2012:i:4:p:97-119
    DOI: 10.1080/13545701.2012.737007

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    Cited by:

    1. B. Zorina Khan, 2015. "Invisible Women: Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Family Firms in France during Early Industrialization," NBER Working Papers 20854, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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