The Long-Term Effect of Demographic Shocks on the Evolution of Gender Roles: Evidence from the Transatlantic Slave Trade

57 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2017

Date Written: July 27, 2016

Abstract

How do demographic shocks affect the long-run evolution of female labor force participation and gender norms? This paper focuses on the emergence of a female biased sex ratio in Africa as a consequence of the transatlantic slave trade. This historical shock affected the division of labor along gender lines, as women substituted for the missing men by taking up areas of work that were traditionally male prerogatives. By exploiting variation in the degree to which different ethnic groups were affected by the transatlantic slave trade, I show that a temporary historical shock to the division of labor can have a persistent effect on the role of women in society: women whose ancestors were more exposed to the transatlantic slave trade are today more likely to be in the labor force, have lower levels of fertility, and are more likely to participate in household decisions. The marriage market and the cultural transmission of internal norms across generations represent important mechanisms explaining persistence.

JEL Classification: J16, N37, Z13

Suggested Citation

Teso, Edoardo, The Long-Term Effect of Demographic Shocks on the Evolution of Gender Roles: Evidence from the Transatlantic Slave Trade (July 27, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2927221 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2927221

Edoardo Teso (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences (MEDS) ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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