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Culture and the formation of gender-specific skills in an agrarian society

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  • Unte, Pia
  • Kemper, Niels

Abstract

This study examines whether cultural norms arising from traditional agricultural practices affect the formation of gender-specific skills. We hypothesize that a culturally induced division of labor along gender lines generates gender-specific skills. As opposed to the traditional measurement of skills, which measures skill levels based on the type of tasks or abilities observed in certain occupations, we measure skills directly using a controlled field experiment in rural Ethiopia. Comparing women with exposure to the plow culture with women without exposure to such cultural norms, and with men in general, we find a clear division of labor along gender lines between domestic and non-domestic work. We show that women exposed to the plow culture are particularly skilled in exercising a light manual task resembling everyday work in the domestic sphere. Drawing on secondary data on the time-use of Ethiopian adults, we find supporting evidence that women with exposure to the plow culture specialize in tasks from the domestic sphere. Thus, culturally-induced skill differences arguably are a neglected explanation for gender disparities in labor income.

Suggested Citation

  • Unte, Pia & Kemper, Niels, 2015. "Culture and the formation of gender-specific skills in an agrarian society," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113002, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc15:113002
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative

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