The Evolution and Persistence of Women's Roles: Evidence from the Gold Rush
62 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2018 Last revised: 19 Aug 2023
Date Written: January 14, 2021
Industrial development has ramifications for women’s participation in labor markets and society, in the short and long run. We explore the Gold Rush that took place in the Western United States in the second half of the 19th century. The Gold Rush led to high male-skewed inward migration and created gender-specific job market opportunities, with men entering mining employment and women entering the service sector. In gold mining counties, both men and women worked less in farming. After revealing the baseline patterns, we disentangle the direct effect of gold mining from the mediating effect of the skewed sex ratio, using formal mediation analysis. The skewed sex ratio is driving lower marriage rates for men, and higher female participation in the service sector. The results are consistent with surviving written accounts from the time, suggesting a high premium for traditionally female services. Using census data spanning almost a century, we show that these differences persisted long after the initial conditions of the Gold Rush had passed.
Keywords: Extractive Industries, Sex Ratio, Marriage Markets, Labor Markets, Gender Relations, Persistence of Norms
JEL Classification: O13, J16, J12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation