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

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  • Èric Roca Fernández

    (CERDI - Centre d'Études et de Recherches sur le Développement International - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - UCA - Université Clermont Auvergne, AMSE - Aix-Marseille Sciences Economiques - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - AMU - Aix Marseille Université - ECM - École Centrale de Marseille - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Annalisa Frigo

    (UCL IRES - Institut de recherches économiques et sociales - UCL - Université Catholique de Louvain = Catholic University of Louvain)

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 contributed to decrease the gender gap in literacy. The reduction is sizeable, amounting to a 12.3% drop in gender educational inequality. Further evidence of the beguinal legacy is provided leveraging alternative indicators of female agency.

Suggested Citation

  • Èric Roca Fernández & Annalisa Frigo, 2022. "Roots of Gender Equality: the Persistent Effect of Beguinages on Attitudes Toward Women," Post-Print hal-03371524, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-03371524
    DOI: 10.1007/s10887-021-09198-7
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://hal.uca.fr/hal-03371524
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    Cited by:

    1. Diachkova, Anna V. & Kontoboitseva, Anna E., 2022. "Economic Benefits of gender equality: comparing EU and BRICS countries," Economic Consultant, Roman I. Ostapenko, vol. 37(1), pages 4-15.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic Persistence; Culture; Institutions; Religion; Gender Gap;
    All these keywords.

    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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