Gender Roles and Technological Progress

51 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2007 Last revised: 7 Jul 2010

See all articles by Stefania Albanesi

Stefania Albanesi

Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Claudia Olivetti

Boston College; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2007

Abstract

Until the early decades of the 20th century, women spent more than 60% of their prime- age years either pregnant or nursing. Since then, improved medical knowledge and obstetric practices reduced the time cost associated with women's reproductive role. The introduction of infant formula also reduced women's comparative advantage in infant care, by providing an effective breast milk substitute. Our hypothesis is that these developments enabled married women to increase their participation in the labor force, thus providing the incentive to invest in market skills, potentially narrowing gender earnings differentials. We document these changes and develop a quantitative model that aims to capture their impact. Our results suggest that progress in medical technologies related to motherhood was essential to generate the significant rise in the participation of married women between 1920 and 1960, in particular those with children. By enabling women to reconcile work and motherhood, these medical advancements laid the ground for the revolutionary change in women's economic role.

Suggested Citation

Albanesi, Stefania and Olivetti, Claudia, Gender Roles and Technological Progress (June 2007). NBER Working Paper No. w13179. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=994227

Stefania Albanesi (Contact Author)

Columbia University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Department of Economics ( email )

420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.columbia.edu/~sa2310/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

Claudia Olivetti

Boston College ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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