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On the origins of gender roles: women and the plough

  • Alesina, Alberto F
  • Giuliano, Paola
  • Nunn, Nathan

This paper seeks to better understand the historical origins of current differences in norms and beliefs about the appropriate role of women in society. We test the hypothesis that traditional agricultural practices influenced the historical gender division of labor and the evolution and persistence of gender norms. We find that, consistent with existing hypotheses, the descendants of societies that traditionally practiced plough agriculture, today have lower rates of female participation in the workplace, in politics, and in entrepreneurial activities, as well as a greater prevalence of attitudes favoring gender inequality. We identify the causal impact of traditional plough use by exploiting variation in the historical geo-climatic suitability of the environment for growing crops that differentially benefited from the adoption of the plough. Our IV estimates, based on this variation, support the findings from OLS. To isolate the importance of cultural transmission as a mechanism, we examine female labor force participation of second-generation immigrants living within the US.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8418.

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Date of creation: Jun 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8418
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  1. Stefania Albanesi & Claudia Olivetti, 2007. "Gender Roles and Technological Progress," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2007-029, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  2. Nicole M Fortin, 2005. "Gender Role Attitudes and the Labour-market Outcomes of Women across OECD Countries," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(3), pages 416-438, Autumn.
  3. Alberto F. Alesina & Yann Algan & Pierre Cahuc & Paola Giuliano, 2010. "Family Values and the Regulation of Labor," NBER Working Papers 15747, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Carranza, Eliana, 2012. "Soil endowments, female labor force participation and the demographic deficit of women in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5974, The World Bank.
  5. Mark Rosenzweig & Andrew D. Foster, . "Comparative Advantage, Information and the Allocation of Workers to Tasks: Evidence from an Agricultural Labor Market," Home Pages _066, University of Pennsylvania.
  6. Rainald Borck, 2011. "Adieu Rabenmutter - The Effect of Culture on Fertility, Female Labour Supply, the Gender Wage Gap and Childcare," CESifo Working Paper Series 3337, CESifo Group Munich.
  7. Nathan Nunn & Diego Puga, 2009. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," NBER Working Papers 14918, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. David Clingingsmith & Asim Ijaz Khwaja & Michael Kremer, 2009. "Estimating the Impact of the Hajj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam's Global Gathering," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(3), pages 1133-1170, August.
  9. Stelios Michalopoulos, 2009. "The Origins of Ethnolinguistic Diversity," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 110, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  10. Lawrence Katz & Jeffrey R. Kling & B. Jeffrey Liebman & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2004. "Moving to Opportunity and Tranquility: Neighborhood Effects on Adult Economic Self-Sufficiency and Health From a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," Working Papers 860, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  11. King, Jeffrey & Liebman, Jeffrey & Katz, Lawrence & Sanbonmatsu, Lisa, 2004. "Moving to Opportunity and Tranquility: Neighborhood Effects on Adult Economic Self-Sufficiency and Health from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," Working Paper Series rwp04-035, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  12. Mark M. Pitt & Mark R. Rosenzweig & Mohammad Nazmul Hassan, 2012. "Human Capital Investment and the Gender Division of Labor in a Brawn-Based Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(7), pages 3531-60, December.
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