Gender Laws, Values, and Outcomes: Evidence from the World Values Survey

38 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2017

See all articles by Charles Kenny

Charles Kenny

Center for Global Development

Dev Patel

Harvard University

Date Written: April 20, 2017


This paper analyzes six waves of responses from the World Values Survey to understand the determinants of beliefs about women’s roles in society and their relationship with the legal system and outcomes. Using survey data for 300,000 individuals, we find that characteristics of an individual’s home country only explain about a fifth of the variation in values, and a single individual can report strongly different norms about women’s equality across different domains. There is a strong correlation between norms, laws and female labor force participation and between norms and the proportion of legislators who are women—but not between norms and relative female tertiary education. There is some suggestive evidence that laws may be more significant than norms in determining female employment outcomes, but the available evidence does not allow for strong causal statements at the cross-country level.

Keywords: Values, Economics of Gender, Human Development, Gender Law

JEL Classification: A13, J16, K38, O15

Suggested Citation

Kenny, Charles and Patel, Dev, Gender Laws, Values, and Outcomes: Evidence from the World Values Survey (April 20, 2017). Center for Global Development Working Paper No. 452, Available at SSRN: or

Charles Kenny (Contact Author)

Center for Global Development ( email )

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5th floor
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Dev Patel

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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