Roots of gender equality: the persistent effect of beguinages on attitudes toward women
Annalisa Frigo and
Èric Roca Fernández ()
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Annalisa Frigo: UCLouvain
Journal of Economic Growth, 2022, vol. 27, issue 1, No 3, 148 pages
Abstract This paper is concerned with the historical roots of gender equality. It proposes and empirically assesses a new determinant of gender equality: gender-specific outside options in the marriage market. In particular, enlarging women’s options besides marriage—even if only temporarily—increases their bargaining power with respect to men, leading to a persistent improvement in gender equality. We illustrate this mechanism focusing on Belgium, and relate gender-equality levels in the 19th century to the presence of medieval, female-only communities called beguinages that allowed women to remain single amidst a society that traditionally advocated marriage. Combining geo-referenced data on beguinal communities with 19th-century census data, we document that the presence of beguinages contributed to decrease the gender gap in literacy. The reduction is sizeable, amounting to a 12.3% drop in gender educational inequality. Further evidence of the beguinal legacy is provided leveraging alternative indicators of female agency.
Keywords: Economic persistence; Culture; Institutions; Religion; Gender gap (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I25 J16 N33 O15 O43 Z12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
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Working Paper: Roots of Gender Equality: the Persistent Effect of Beguinages on Attitudes Toward Women (2022)
Working Paper: Roots of Gender Equality: the Persistent Effect of Beguinages on Attitudes Toward Women (2019)
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