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Marriage, Specialization, and the Gender Division of Labor

  • Matthew J. Baker

    ()

    (Department of Economics, United States Naval Academy)

  • Joyce P. Jacobsen

    ()

    (Department of Economics, 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 then enter 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 of a customary gender division of labor decrease as opportunities to exchange in markets increase.

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File URL: http://repec.wesleyan.edu/pdf/jjacobsen/2005001_jacobsen.pdf
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Paper provided by Wesleyan University, Department of Economics in its series Wesleyan Economics Working Papers with number 2005-001.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in Journal of Labor Economics, October 2007, 25 (4): 763-793
Handle: RePEc:wes:weswpa:2005-001
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Web page: http://www.wesleyan.edu/econ/

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