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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: UNIVERSITE CATHOLIQUE DE LOUVAIN, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES)

No 2019013, Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) from Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES)

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 was instrumental in decreasing the gender gap in literacy. The reduction is sizeable, amounting to a 5.3 % drop in gender educational inequality.

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)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-gen, nep-gro, nep-his and nep-lab
Date: 2019-08
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:ctl:louvir:2019013

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