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High-Value Work and the Rise of Women: The Cotton Revolution and Gender Equality in China

90 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2014 Last revised: 10 Dec 2016

Melanie Meng Xue

Department of Economics & Center for Economic History, Northwestern University

Date Written: November 1, 2016

Abstract

The cotton revolution (1300-1840 AD) in imperial China constituted a substantial shock to the value of women's work. Using historical gazetteers, I exploit variation in cotton textile production across 1,489 counties and establish a robust negative relationship between high-value work opportunities for women in the past and sex ratio at birth in 2000. To overcome potential endogeneity in location, I use an instrument pertaining to suitability for cotton weaving. I find evidence that premodern cotton textile production permanently changed cultural beliefs about women's worth, and that its effects have persisted beyond 1840 and endured under various political and economic regimes.

Keywords: Culture, historical persistence, high-value work, gender bias

JEL Classification: Z1, J16, N35

Suggested Citation

Xue, Melanie Meng, High-Value Work and the Rise of Women: The Cotton Revolution and Gender Equality in China (November 1, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2389218 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2389218

Melanie Meng Xue (Contact Author)

Department of Economics & Center for Economic History, Northwestern University ( email )

2211 Campus Drive
Office #3197
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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