Does Mother Tongue Make for Women's Work? Linguistics, Household Labor, and Gender Identity

53 Pages Posted: 12 Nov 2013 Last revised: 21 Apr 2014

Daniel L. Hicks

University of Oklahoma - Department of Economics

Estefania Santacreu-Vasut

ESSEC Business School

Amir Shoham

Temple University - Department of Finance

Date Written: February 13, 2014

Abstract

This paper studies the formation and transmission of gender identity in a sample of U.S. immigrants. We document that households with individuals whose native language emphasizes gender in its grammatical structure are significantly more likely to allocate household tasks on the basis of sex and to do so more intensively. These gender identities are evident even in the behavior of single person households. To isolate the role of language, we employ a differences-in-differences analysis based on the critical period hypothesis of language acquisition. This analysis demonstrates that time allocations are particularly skewed only for immigrants who arrive after previously learning a gender marked native language. Once established, gender norms persist regardless of how long an individual has lived in the U.S. However, we find little evidence of intergenerational transmission of these identities, and instead document rapid cultural assimilation among second-generation immigrants.

Keywords: Lanugage, Gender Roles, Norms, Cultural Transmission, Intergenerational Transmission

JEL Classification: Z10, J22, O12, O15

Suggested Citation

Hicks, Daniel Lee and Santacreu-Vasut, Estefania and Shoham, Amir, Does Mother Tongue Make for Women's Work? Linguistics, Household Labor, and Gender Identity (February 13, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2353128 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2353128

Daniel Lee Hicks (Contact Author)

University of Oklahoma - Department of Economics ( email )

729 Elm Avenue
Norman, OK 73019-2103
United States

Estefania Santacreu-Vasut

ESSEC Business School ( email )

3 Avenue Bernard Hirsch
CS 50105 CERGY
CERGY, CERGY PONTOISE CEDEX 95021
France

Amir Shoham

Temple University - Department of Finance ( email )

Fox School of Business and Management
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

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