A Theory of Social Norms, Women's Time Allocation, and Gender Inequality in the Process of Development

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February 2018
Paper author(s): 
Pierre-Richard Agénor
Gender Economics

This paper studies how social norms influence gender bias in the workplace and in the family, how these two forms of discrimination interact among themselves and with intra-household bargaining, and how gender norms evolve in the course of development. The presence of women in the labor market is a key determinant of the degree of gender bias in the workplace. Household preferences towards girls’ education depend on women’s bargaining power which, through the male-female wage gap, depends itself on gender bias in the labor market. Experiments with a calibrated version of the model for a stylized low-income country show that interactions between social norms, women’s time allocation, and gender gaps are a critical source of growth dynamics. Initial measures aimed at mitigating the influence of discriminatory norms regarding gender roles in the workplace and in the family can magnify over time the benefits of standard policy prescriptions (aimed for instance at fostering childhood education) in promoting development and gender equality


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