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The Long-Term Effect of Demographic Shocks on the Evolution of Gender Roles: Evidence from the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Authors: Edoardo Teso
Source: Journal of the European Economic Association, forthcoming
Topic(s): Employment
Country: Africa
  Multiple African Countries
Published: NOV 2017
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.