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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

On the origins of gender roles: Women and the plough

This paper seeks to better understand the historic origins of current differences in norms and beliefs about the appropriate role of women in society. We test the hypothesis that traditional agricultural practices influenced the historic gender division of labor and the evolution and persistence of gender norms. We find that, consistent with existing hypotheses, the descendants of pre-industrial societies that practiced plough agriculture, today have lower rates of female participation in the work place, in politics, and in entrepreneurial activities, as well as attitudes reflecting gender inequality. We identify the causal impact of traditional plough use on gender norms today by exploiting variation in the historic geo-climatic suitability of the environment for growing crops that differentially benefited from the adoption of the plough. Our IV estimates, based on this variation, support the findings from OLS. To isolate the importance of cultural transmission as a mechanism, we examine female labor force participation of second generation immigrants living within the US.

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