Modern Gender Roles and Agricultural History: The Neolithic Inheritance
57 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2012 Last revised: 10 Jan 2015
Date Written: November 4, 2012
This research proposes the hypothesis that societies with long histories of agriculture have less equality in gender roles as a consequence of more patriarchal values and beliefs regarding the proper role of women in society. We test this hypothesis in a world sample of countries, in regions of Europe, and among immigrants and children of immigrants living in the US. This evidence reveals a significant negative relationship between years of agriculture history and female labor force participation rates, as well as other measures of equality in contemporary gender roles. This finding is robust to the inclusion of an extensive set of possible confounders, including historical plough-use and the length of the growing season. We argue that two mechanisms can explain the result: (1) societies with longer agricultural histories had a higher level of technological advancement which in the Malthusian Epoch translated into higher fertility and a diminished role for women outside the home; (2) transition to cereal agriculture requires time consuming processing, and this would tend to be an activity carried out by women.
Keywords: Economic development; culture; gender roles
JEL Classification: J70, N50, O11, O17
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation