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Publication Detail
The Feminisation U, Cultural Norms, and the Plough
  • Publication Type:
    Working discussion paper
  • Authors:
    Uberti LJ, Douarin E
  • Publication date:
  • Report number:
  • Series:
    UCL CCSEE Working paper series
  • Keyword:
    female labour force participation, economic development, agricultural history, cultural norms
The feminisation U describes the tendency of female labour force participation (FLFP) to first decline and then rise in the process of development. Long considered to be a ‘stylised fact’, the feminisation U is actually supported by mixed evidence. This research identifies an important source of heterogeneity in the shape of the feminisation U across countries – the cultural norms and values engendered by the adoption of the plough in pre-industrial times. In line with existing theoretical accounts of the U-curve, which suggest that initial conditions are critical, we find evidence that a tradition of plough use intensifies the U-shaped path of FLFP. Based on a dynamic panel-data estimator, we find evidence of a significantly U-shaped path of FLFP in countries with a history of ancestral plough use, but no such relationship in ‘non-plough countries’. We also explore, and rule out, other potential drivers of heterogeneity (e.g. the timing of the Neolithic revolution), and investigate empirically the causal mechanisms that generate the feminisation U in plough countries. Our results address the empirical controversy surrounding the feminisation U, while shedding new light on the long-run effects of plough adoption.
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