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Roots of Gender Equality: the Persistent Effect of Beguinages on Attitudes Toward Women

Author

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  • Annalisa Frigo

    () (UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES))

  • Eric Roca Fernandez

    (Aix-Marseille Univ., CNRS, EHESS, Centrale Marseille, AMSE, Marseille, France)

Abstract

This paper is concerned with the historical roots of gender equality. It proposes and empirically assesses a new determinant of gender equality: gender-specific outside options in the marriage market. In particular, enlarging women's options besides marriage - even if only temporarily - increases their bargaining power with respect to men, leading to a persistent improvement in gender equality. We illustrate this mechanism focusing on Belgium, and relate gender-equality levels in the 19th century to the presence of medieval, female-only communities called beguinages that allowed women to remain single amidst a society that traditionally advocated marriage. Combining geo-referenced data on beguinal communities with 19th-century census data, we document that the presence of beguinages was instrumental in decreasing the gender gap in literacy. The reduction is sizeable, amounting to a 5.3 % drop in gender educational inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Annalisa Frigo & Eric Roca Fernandez, 2019. "Roots of Gender Equality: the Persistent Effect of Beguinages on Attitudes Toward Women," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2019013, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
  • Handle: RePEc:ctl:louvir:2019013
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    File URL: https://sites.uclouvain.be/econ/DP/IRES/2019013.pdf
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic Persistence; Culture; Institutions; Religion; Gender Gap;

    JEL classification:

    • I25 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Economic Development
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • N33 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O43 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Institutions and Growth
    • Z12 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Religion

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