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On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough

  • Alesina, Alberto

    ()

    (Harvard University)

  • Giuliano, Paola

    ()

    (University of California, Los Angeles)

  • Nunn, Nathan

    ()

    (Harvard University)

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 Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5735.

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Length: 46 pages
Date of creation: May 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2013, 128 (2), 469-530
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5735
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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. Nathan Nunn & Diego Puga, 2012. "Ruggedness: The Blessing of Bad Geography in Africa," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 20-36, February.
  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. 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.
  5. Clingingsmith, David & Khwaja, Asim Ijaz & Kremer, Michael, 2008. "Estimating the Impact of the Hajj: Religion and Tolerance in Islam’s Global Gathering," Working Paper Series rwp08-022, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  6. 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.
  7. Stelios Michalopoulos, 2009. "The Origins of Ethnolinguistic Diversity," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 110, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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..
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