On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough

45 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2011

See all articles by Alberto F. Alesina

Alberto F. Alesina

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Paola Giuliano

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Nathan Nunn

Harvard University - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Abstract

This paper seeks to better understand the historical origins of current differences in norms and beliefs about the appropriate role of women in society. We test the hypothesis that traditional agricultural practices influenced the historical gender division of labor and the evolution and persistence of gender norms. We find that, consistent with existing hypotheses, the descendants of societies that traditionally practiced plough agriculture, today have lower rates of female participation in the workplace, in politics, and in entrepreneurial activities, as well as a greater prevalence of attitudes favoring gender inequality. We identify the causal impact of traditional plough use by exploiting variation in the historical geo-climatic suitability of the environment for growing crops that differentially benefited from the adoption of the plough. Our IV estimates, based on this variation, support the findings from OLS. To isolate the importance of cultural transmission as a mechanism, we examine female labor force participation of second-generation immigrants living within the US.

Keywords: Culture, beliefs, values, gender roles

JEL Classification: D03, J16, N30

Suggested Citation

Alesina, Alberto F. and Giuliano, Paola and Nunn, Nathan, On the Origins of Gender Roles: Women and the Plough. Harvard Institute of Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 2194. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1856152 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1856152

Alberto F. Alesina (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Paola Giuliano

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

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United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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

Nathan Nunn

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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