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
Date Written: February 13, 2014
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: Suggested Citation