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Women Prefer Larger Governments: Growth, Structural Transformation and Government Size

  • Cavalcanti, Tiago
  • Tavares, José

The increase in income per capita is accompanied, in virtually all countries, by two changes in the structure of the economy, namely an increase in the share of government spending in GDP and an increase in female labour force participation. This paper suggests that these two changes are causally related. We develop a growth model where the structure of the economy is endogenous so that participation in market activities and government size are causally related. Economic growth and rising incomes are accompanied by a greater incentive for women to engage in labour market activities as the opportunity cost of staying at home increases. We hypothesize that government spending decreases the cost of performing household chores such as, but not limited to, child rearing and child care so that couples decide to engage further in the labour market and chose a higher tax rate to finance more government spending. Using a wide cross-section of data for developed and developing countries, we show that higher participation by women in the labour market are indeed positively associated with larger governments. Furthermore, we investigate the causal link between the two variables using as instrumental variables a unique and novel dataset on the relative price of home appliances across OECD countries and over time. We find strong evidence of a causal link between participation in the labour market and government size: a 10 percent rise in participation in the labour market leads to a 7 to 8 percent rise in government size. This effect is robust to the country sample, time period, and a set of controls in the spirit of Rodrik (1998). The inclusion of an endogenous choice of government spending allows a considerable extension of the model in Galor and Weil (2000) so fertility can either rise or fall and phenomena like the baby boom and baby bust in Greenwood at el. (2002) can be addressed. In addition, the paper has important implications for the analysis of the secular as well as cross-country determinants of government size.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5667.

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Date of creation: May 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5667
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  1. Iván Fernández Val, 2003. "Household labor supply: evidence for Spain," Investigaciones Economicas, Fundación SEPI, vol. 27(2), pages 239-275, May.
  2. Weichselbaumer, Doris & Winter-Ebmer, Rudolf, 2003. "A Meta-Analysis of the International Gender Wage Gap," Economics Series 143, Institute for Advanced Studies.
  3. Claudia Goldin, 1990. "Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gold90-1, June.
  4. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Mehmet Yorukoglu, 2002. "Engines of Liberation," Economie d'Avant Garde Research Reports 2, Economie d'Avant Garde.
  5. Husted, Thomas A & Kenny, Lawrence W, 1997. "The Effect of the Expansion of the Voting Franchise on the Size of Government," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 54-82, February.
  6. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2002. "The baby boom and baby bust: some macroeconomics for population economics," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
  7. Fernández, Raquel & Fogli, Alessandra & Olivetti, Claudia, 2002. "Marrying Your Mom: Preference Transmission and Women's Labour and Education Choices," CEPR Discussion Papers 3592, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Jeremy Greenwood & Ananth Seshadri & Guillaume Vandenbroucke, 2002. "The Baby Boom and Baby Bust," Economie d'Avant Garde Research Reports 1, Economie d'Avant Garde.
  9. Sherwin Rosen, 1996. "Public Employment and the Welfare State in Sweden," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 729-740, June.
  10. Oded Galor & David N. Weil, 1993. "The Gender Gap, Fertility, and Growth," NBER Working Papers 4550, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Florence Jaumotte, 2003. "Female Labour Force Participation: Past Trends and Main Determinants in OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 376, OECD Publishing.
  12. Greenwood, Jeremy & Seshadri, Ananth, 2005. "Technological Progress and Economic Transformation," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 19, pages 1225-1273 Elsevier.
  13. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521662918 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. David N. Weil & Oded Galor, 2000. "Population, Technology, and Growth: From Malthusian Stagnation to the Demographic Transition and Beyond," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 806-828, September.
  15. Jonah B. Gelbach, 2002. "Public Schooling for Young Children and Maternal Labor Supply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 307-322, March.
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