Women's Liberation: What's in it for Men?

56 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2008

See all articles by Matthias Doepke

Matthias Doepke

Northwestern University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Michèle Tertilt

University of Mannheim - Department of Economics

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Abstract

The nineteenth century witnessed dramatic improvements in the legal rights of married women. Given that these changes took place long before women gained the right to vote, they amounted to a voluntary renouncement of power by men. In this paper, we investigate men's incentives for sharing power with women. In our model, women's legal rights set the marital bargaining power of husbands and wives. We show that men face a tradeoff between the rights they want for their own wives (namely none) and the rights of other women in the economy. Men prefer other men's wives to have rights because men care about their own daughters and because an expansion of women's rights increases educational investments in children. We show that men may agree to relinquish some of their power once technological change increases the importance of human capital. We corroborate our argument with historical evidence on the expansion of women's rights in England and the United States.

Keywords: women's rights, political economy, human capital, return to education, economic growth

JEL Classification: D13, E13, J16, N30, O43

Suggested Citation

Doepke, Matthias and Tertilt, Michèle, Women's Liberation: What's in it for Men?. IZA Discussion Paper No. 3421, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1294545 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1294545

Matthias Doepke (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Economics ( email )

2003 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Michèle Tertilt

University of Mannheim - Department of Economics ( email )

D-68131 Mannheim
Germany

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