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Women's Rights and Development

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  • Raquel Fernández

Abstract

Why has the expansion of women's economic and political rights coincided with economic development? This paper investigates this question, focusing on a key economic right for women: property rights. The basic hypothesis is that the process of development (i.e., capital accumulation and declining fertility) exacerbated the tension in men's conflicting interests as husbands versus fathers, ultimately resolving them in favor of the latter. As husbands, men stood to gain from their privileged position in a patriarchal world whereas, as fathers, they were hurt by a system that afforded few rights to their daughters. The model predicts that declining fertility would hasten reform of women's property rights whereas legal systems that were initially more favorable to women would delay them. The theoretical relationship between capital and the relative attractiveness of reform is non-monotonic but growth inevitably leads to reform. I explore the empirical validity of the theoretical predictions by using cross-state variation in the US in the timing of married women obtaining property and earning rights between 1850 and 1920.

Suggested Citation

  • Raquel Fernández, 2009. "Women's Rights and Development," NBER Working Papers 15355, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15355
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Bertocchi, Graziella, 2011. "The enfranchisement of women and the welfare state," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(4), pages 535-553, May.
    2. Esther Duflo, 2012. "Women Empowerment and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(4), pages 1051-1079, December.
    3. Kim, Jinyoung & Lee, Jong-Wha & Shin, Kwanho, 2016. "A Model of Gender Inequality and Economic Growth," ADB Economics Working Paper Series 475, Asian Development Bank.
    4. Naghsh Nejad, Maryam, 2013. "Institutionalized Inequality and Brain Drain: An Empirical Study of the Effects of Women's Rights on the Gender Gap in High-Skilled Migration," IZA Discussion Papers 7864, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • O15 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Economic Development: Human Resources; Human Development; Income Distribution; Migration
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance

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