The long-term effect of demographic shocks on the evolution of gender roles: Evidence from the transatlantic slave trade

Edoardo Teso*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Can demographic shocks affect the long-run evolution of female labor force participation and gender norms? This paper traces current variation in women’s participation in the labor force within Sub-Saharan Africa to the emergence of a female-biased sex ratio during the centuries of the transatlantic slave trade. This historical shock affected the division of labor along gender lines in the remaining African population, as women substituted for the missing men by taking up areas of work that were traditionally male tasks. By exploiting variation in the degree to which different ethnic groups were affected by the transatlantic slave trade, I show that women whose ancestors were more exposed to this shock are today more likely to be in the labor force, have lower levels of fertility, and are more likely to participate in household decisions. The marriage market and the cultural transmission of internal norms across generations represent important mechanisms explaining this long-run persistence. (JEL: J16, N37, Z13)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)497-534
Number of pages38
JournalJournal of the European Economic Association
Volume17
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

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