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Traditional Agricultural Practices and the Sex Ratio Today

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  • Alesina, Alberto

    (Harvard University)

  • Giuliano, Paola

    (University of California, Los Angeles)

  • Nunn, Nathan

    (Harvard University)

Abstract

We study the historical origins of cross-country differences in the male-to-female sex ratio. Our analysis focuses on the use of the plough in traditional agriculture. In societies that did not use the plough, women tended to participate in agriculture as actively as men. By contrast, in societies that used the plough, men specialized in agricultural work, due to the physical strength needed to pull the plough or control the animal that pulls it. We hypothesize that this difference caused plough-using societies to value boys more than girls. Today, this belief is reflected in male-biased sex ratios, which arise due to sex-selective abortion or infanticide, or gender-differences in access to family resources, which results in higher mortality rates for girls. Testing this hypothesis, we show that descendants of societies that traditionally practiced plough agriculture today have higher average male-to-female sex ratios. We find that this effect systematically increases in magnitude and statistical significance as one looks at older cohorts. Estimates using instrumental variables confirm our findings from multivariate OLS analysis.

Suggested Citation

  • Alesina, Alberto & Giuliano, Paola & Nunn, Nathan, 2018. "Traditional Agricultural Practices and the Sex Ratio Today," IZA Discussion Papers 11463, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp11463
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Xiaojia Bao & Sebastian Galiani & Kai Li & Cheryl Long, 2019. "Where Have All the Children Gone? An Empirical Study of Child Abandonment and Abduction in China," NBER Working Papers 26492, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Fenske, James & Gupta, Bishnupriya & Neumann, Cora, 2022. "Missing women in Colonial India," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 613, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    3. Goli, Srinivas & Mavisakalyan, Astghik & Rammohan, Anu & Vu, Loan, 2022. "Conflicts and son preference: Micro-level evidence from 58 countries," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 46(C).
    4. Jung, Yeonha, 2020. "The long reach of cotton in the US South: Tenant farming, mechanization, and low-skill manufacturing," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    5. Fredriksson, Per G. & Gupta, Satyendra Kumar, 2020. "Irrigation and Culture: Gender Roles and Women’s Rights," GLO Discussion Paper Series 681, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    6. Fredriksson, Per G. & Gupta, Satyendra Kumar, 2018. "The neolithic revolution and contemporary sex ratios," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 173(C), pages 19-22.
    7. An, Jiafu, 2020. "Is there an employee-based gender gap in informal financial markets? International evidence," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    8. Fenske, James & Gupta, Bishnupriya & Neumann, Cora, 2022. "Missing women in Colonial India," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1402, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    9. Jung, Yeonha, 2018. "The Legacy of King Cotton: Agricultural Patterns and the Quality of Structural Change," SocArXiv trjfz, Center for Open Science.
    10. A. Suresh & P. Krishnan & Girish K. Jha & A. Amarender Reddy, 2022. "Agricultural Sustainability and Its Trends in India: A Macro-Level Index-Based Empirical Evaluation," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 14(5), pages 1-23, February.
    11. Aparajita Dasgupta & Anisha Sharma, 2021. "Can Legal Bans on Sex Detection Technology Reduce Gender Discrimination?," Working Papers 58, Ashoka University, Department of Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    sex ratio; gender roles; cultural transmission; historical persistence;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J1 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics
    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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