The Role of Historical Resource Scarcity in Modern Gender Inequality
We propose that historical resource scarcity played a role in the evolution of gender norms inimical to women, cultures that persists to this day. This is a plausible thesis for three reasons. First, male dominance in some species of non-human primate may have been shaped by their resource environments. Second, the prehistoric human skeletal record suggests scarcity led to decline in girls’ share of nutrition in parts of the world. Third, poverty is observed to contribute to gender bias in intra-household resource allocations in less developed countries. The proposition that historical habitual scarcity may have engendered cultures of gender inequality is supported by our finding that nations’ historical resource endowments, measured by the availability of arable land, are negatively related to their present levels of gender inequality as gauged by, for example, the UNDP’s Gender Inequality Index. It is supported as well in analyses at the sub-national level, which discover there are fewer missing women in districts of India better endowed with rainfall and cultivable land, and less bigotry in regard to the rights and abilities of women in sub-national regions of the world whose ancestral lands are better suited to agriculture. JEL Codes: D03, J16, N30
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