High-Value Work and the Rise of Women: The Cotton Revolution and Gender Equality in China*
Melanie Meng Xue
MPRA Paper from University Library of Munich, Germany
This paper studies a unique historical experiment: the cotton revolution and its impact on the emergence of gender-equitable beliefs. The cotton revolution led to a prolonged phase (1300-1840 AD) of high productivity for women. I hypothesize that a substantial, long-standing increase in relative female income eroded a highly resilient cultural belief: women are less capable than men. I examine a period when economic gains from the cotton revolution faded. Using variation across 1,489 counties in cotton spinning and weaving, I find that the cotton revolution reduces sex selection. This result is supported by survey evidence on gender equitable beliefs. I instrument cotton weaving with the range of relative humidity within which cotton yarn can be smoothly woven into cloth. I document an initial impact of the cotton revolution on widow suicides. To isolate the cultural channel, I examine the effects of the cotton revolution under post-1949 state socialism, where both genders had similar economic opportunities, political and legal rights, and show that pre-1840 cotton weaving predicts a higher probability for the wife to head the household. I document the distinctive role of high-value work in the perception of women. Low-value work performed by women, such as cotton cultivation, does not correct prenatal sex selection.
Keywords: Culture; relative female income; gender-equitable beliefs (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: I1 J16 N0 N35 Z1 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cna, nep-dem, nep-gen, nep-his and nep-lab
References: View references in EconPapers View complete reference list from CitEc
Citations: View citations in EconPapers (15) Track citations by RSS feed
Downloads: (external link)
https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/91100/1/MPRA_paper_90761.pdf original version (application/pdf)
This item may be available elsewhere in EconPapers: Search for items with the same title.
Export reference: BibTeX
RIS (EndNote, ProCite, RefMan)
Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:pra:mprapa:91100
Access Statistics for this paper
More papers in MPRA Paper from University Library of Munich, Germany Ludwigstraße 33, D-80539 Munich, Germany. Contact information at EDIRC.
Bibliographic data for series maintained by Joachim Winter ().