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Marriage, Specialization, and the Gender Division of Labor

  • Matthew J. Baker

    ()

    (United States Naval Academy)

  • Joyce P. Jacobsen

    ()

    (Wesleyan University)

A customary gender division of labor is one in which women and men are directed towards certain tasks and/or explicitly prohibited from performing others. We offer an explanation as to why the gender division of labor is so often enforced by custom, and why customary gender divisions of labor generally involve both direction and prohibition. Our model builds on the literature on the marital hold-up problem, and considers both problems in choice of specialty and human capital acquisition in a framework in which agents learn a variety of skills and must search for a marriage partner on the marriage market. We show that wasteful behavior may emerge due to strategic incentives in career choice and human capital acquisition, and that both problems may be mitigated through the customary gender division of labor. We find, however, that a gender division of labor is not Pareto-improving; one gender is made worse off. Both the distributional effects and welfare gains to a customary gender division of labor decrease as opportunities to exchange in markets increase.

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File URL: http://www.usna.edu/EconDept/RePEc/usn/wp/usnawp1.pdf
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Paper provided by United States Naval Academy Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 1.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:usn:usnawp:1
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