Women and Public Policy Program Seminar Series

Women and the Plough: The Historical Origins of Gender Norms in Society with Alberto Alesina

August 21, 2014

To better understand the historical origins of current differences in norms and beliefs about the appropriate role of women in society, Professor Alesina tests the hypothesis that traditional agricultural practices influenced the historical gender division of labor and the evolution and persistence of gender norms. Finding that, consistent with existing hypotheses, the descendants of societies that traditionally practiced plough agriculture, today have lower rates of female participation in the workplace, in politics, and in entrepreneurial activities, as well as a greater prevalence of attitudes favoring gender inequality. They identify the causal impact of traditional plough use by exploiting variation in the historical geo-climatic suitability of the environment for growing crops that differentially benefited from the adoption of the plough. To isolate the importance of cultural transmission as a mechanism, they examine female labor force participation of second-generation immigrants living within the US. Speaker: Alberto Alesina, Nathaniel Ropes Professor  of Political Economy, Harvard University

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