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Gender Discrimination in Property Rights


  • M. Casari
  • M. Lisciandra


In the Middle Ages women in the Italian Alps had substantially more rights on collective properties than in the Modern Age. The documental evidence shows a progressive erosion of women’s rights and a convergence toward gender-biased inheritance systems. We tracked the evolution of inheritance regulations on collective land in the peasant communities of Trentino over a period of six centuries (13th-19th). Considering a panel of hundreds of communities, we provide a long-term perspective of institutional change. When population pressure increased, a patrilineal system emerged as a protective measure to preserve the per-capita endowment of collective properties within a community. This study raises general issues about the role of local level versus centralized decision-making in delivering gender equality and about the long-term trade-off between the protection of common resources and a healthy genetic pool at the community level.

Suggested Citation

  • M. Casari & M. Lisciandra, 2013. "Gender Discrimination in Property Rights," Working Papers wp914, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  • Handle: RePEc:bol:bodewp:wp914

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Quisumbing, Agnes R. & Otsuka, Keijiro, 2001. "Land Inheritance and Schooling in Matrilineal Societies: Evidence from Sumatra," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(12), pages 2093-2110, December.
    2. Otsuka, Keijiro & Suyanto, S. & Sonobe, Tetsushi & Tomich, Thomas P., 2001. "Evolution of land tenure institutions and development of agroforestry: evidence from customary land areas of Sumatra," Agricultural Economics, Blackwell, vol. 25(1), pages 85-101, June.
    3. Hansen, J.D. & Luckert, M.K. & Minae, S. & Place, F., 2005. "Tree planting under customary tenure systems in malawi: impacts of marriage and inheritance patterns," Agricultural Systems, Elsevier, vol. 84(1), pages 99-118, April.
    4. Alberto Alesina & Paola Giuliano & Nathan Nunn, 2013. "On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(2), pages 469-530.
    5. Quisumbing, Agnes R. & Otsuka, Keijiro, 2001. "Land, trees, and women: evolution of land tenure institutions in Western Ghana and Sumatra," Research reports 121, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    6. Tine De Moor, 2009. "Avoiding tragedies: a Flemish common and its commoners under the pressure of social and economic change during the eighteenth century -super-1," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 62(1), pages 1-22, February.
    7. Casari, Marco, 2007. "Emergence of Endogenous Legal Institutions: Property Rights and Community Governance in the Italian Alps," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(01), pages 191-226, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Casari, Marco & Lisciandra, Maurizio, 2014. "Gender Discrimination and Common Property Resources: a Model," MPRA Paper 57712, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Casari, Marco & Lisciandra, Maurizio, 2015. "Gender Discrimination and Common Property Resources," IZA Discussion Papers 9601, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • N53 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • Q20 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - General

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