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The Supply of Gender Stereotypes and Discriminatory Beliefs

In: Human Capital in History: The American Record

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  • Edward L. Glaeser
  • Yueran Ma

Abstract

What determines beliefs about the ability and appropriate role of women? An overwhelming majority of men and women born early in the 20th century thought women should not work; a majority now believes that work is appropriate for both genders. Betty Friedan (1963) postulated that beliefs about gender were formed by consumer good producers, but a simple model suggests that such firms would only have the incentive to supply error, when mass persuasion is cheap, when their products complement women's time in the household, and when individual producers have significant market power. Such conditions seem unlikely to be universal, or even common, but gender stereotypes have a long history. To explain that history, we turn to a second model where parents perpetuate beliefs out of a desire to encourage the production of grandchildren. Undersupply of female education will encourage daughters' fertility, directly by reducing the opportunity cost of their time and indirectly by leading daughters to believe that they are less capable. Children will be particularly susceptible to persuasion if they overestimate their parents' altruism toward themselves. The supply of persuasion will diminish if women work before childbearing, which may explain why gender-related beliefs changed radically among generations born in the 1940s.
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Suggested Citation

  • Edward L. Glaeser & Yueran Ma, 2014. "The Supply of Gender Stereotypes and Discriminatory Beliefs," NBER Chapters,in: Human Capital in History: The American Record, pages 355-389 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:12890
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Goldin, Claudia, 1992. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195072709.
    2. Glaeser, Edward L. & Ujhelyi, Gergely, 2010. "Regulating misinformation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(3-4), pages 247-257, April.
    3. Claudia Goldin, 2006. "The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women's Employment, Education, and Family," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 1-21, May.
    4. Edward L. Glaeser, 2005. "The Political Economy of Hatred," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(1), pages 45-86.
    5. Goldin, Claudia, 2006. "The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women’s Employment, Education, and Family," Scholarly Articles 2943933, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    6. Robert A. Margo, 1991. "Segregated Schools and the Mobility Hypothesis: A Model of Local Government Discrimination," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(1), pages 61-73.
    7. Francine Blau & Peter Brummund & Albert Liu, 2013. "Trends in Occupational Segregation by Gender 1970–2009: Adjusting for the Impact of Changes in the Occupational Coding System," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(2), pages 471-492, April.
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    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination

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