The Economics and Politics of Women's Rights

51 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2011 Last revised: 16 Apr 2022

See all articles by Matthias Doepke

Matthias Doepke

Northwestern University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Michèle Tertilt

University of Mannheim - Department of Economics

Alessandra Voena

University of Chicago

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2011

Abstract

Women's rights and economic development are highly correlated. Today, the discrepancy between the legal rights of women and men is much larger in developing compared to developed countries. Historically, even in countries that are now rich women had few rights before economic development took off. Is development the cause of expanding women's rights, or conversely, do women's rights facilitate development? We argue that there is truth to both hypotheses. The literature on the economic consequences of women's rights documents that more rights for women lead to more spending on health and children, which should benefit development. The political-economy literature on the evolution of women's rights finds that technological change increased the costs of patriarchy for men, and thus contributed to expanding women's rights. Combining these perspectives, we discuss the theory of Doepke and Tertilt (2009), where an increase in the return to human capital induces men to vote for women's rights, which in turn promotes growth in human capital and income per capita.

Suggested Citation

Doepke, Matthias and Tertilt, Michèle and Voena, Alessandra, The Economics and Politics of Women's Rights (December 2011). NBER Working Paper No. w17672, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1973883

Matthias Doepke (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Economics ( email )

2003 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Michèle Tertilt

University of Mannheim - Department of Economics ( email )

D-68131 Mannheim
Germany

Alessandra Voena

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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