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Irrigation and gender roles

Per G. Fredriksson, PhD Satyendra Kumar Gupta
Journal of Development Economics. March 2, 2023

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This paper proposes that ancestral irrigation is associated with lower levels of contemporary female labor force participation. We test and provide support for this novel hypothesis using an exogenous measure of irrigation and cross-country data, and data from the World Values Survey, the Afrobarometer, and the Asian Barometer. To explore a possible mechanism and cultural persistence, we use the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, the European Social Survey, and the American Community Survey. The gender-based division of labor in pre-modern agriculture appears to be a possible channel between irrigation and contemporary female labor force participation rates. Evidence from second-generation immigrants suggests cultural transmission across generations, especially via males.