The Feminisation U, cultural norms, and the plough. A new paper published ONLINE FIRST OPEN ACCESS in the Journal of Population Economics by Luca J. Uberti and Elodie Douarin.

The new paper finds that an U-shaped relationship between female labour force participation and economic development is only significant in countries whose ancestors employed a plough-based agricultural technology.

Luca J. Uberti & Elodie Douarin

The Feminisation U, cultural norms, and the plough

Journal of Population Economics (2022). Open Access

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Author Abstract: The Feminisation U describes the tendency of female labour force participation (FLFP) to first decline and then rise in the process of economic development. While the Feminisation U is often presented as a ‘stylised fact’ of development, empirical support for it is mixed. Here, we show that cultural norms inherited from ancestral plough use exert a moderating influence on the shape of the Feminisation U. Specifically, we find a significantly U-shaped path of FLFP only in countries whose ancestors employed a plough-based agricultural technology. The shape of the U-curve becomes progressively more muted as the share of a country’s ancestors that practiced plough agriculture decreases. In countries with little or no legacy of historical plough use, the time path of FLFP is effectively flat. This pattern of results is robust to correcting for dynamic panel bias, instrumenting for per-capita income, and controlling for other potential effect modifiers. Our findings are compatible with a nuanced reading of the main theoretical models proposed in the literature to explain the Feminisation U.

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