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A Strictly Economic Explanation of Gender Roles: The Lasting Legacy of the Plough

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  • Alessandro Cigno

Abstract

We show that the descendants of ancient farmers may have an interest in marrying among themselves, and thus maintaining the gendered division of labour, originally justified on comparative-advantage grounds by the advent of the plough, even after they emigrate to a modern industrial economy where individual productivity depends on education rather than physical characteristics. The result rests on the argument that, if efficiency requires the more productive spouse to specialize in raising income, and the less productive one in raising children, irrespective of gender, an efficient domestic equilibrium will be implemented by a costlessly enforceable pre-marital contract stipulating that the husband should do the former and the wife the latter. A con-tract may not be needed, however, if time spent with children gives direct utility, because an effi cient equilibrium may then be characterized by little or no division of labour.

Suggested Citation

  • Alessandro Cigno, 2020. "A Strictly Economic Explanation of Gender Roles: The Lasting Legacy of the Plough," CESifo Working Paper Series 8668, CESifo.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_8668
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    Keywords

    plough; comparative advantage; gender; matching; hold-up problem; contract enforcement; migration;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers

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