Can the historical gender gap index deepen our understanding of economic development?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Knowledge of the long relationship between gender equality and economic growth is hampered by the lack of information and resources on the various dimensions of gender equality. This paper is a first attempt to assess the size of the gender gap and investigate its relationship with economic growth from a historical perspective. Exploiting a unique census-based dataset of 86 French counties in the mid-nineteenth century, I construct a historical gender gap index measuring the size of the gap between men and women in three critical areas: economic opportunities, educational attainment, and health. A county comparison allows me to identify the strengths and weaknesses of French counties in closing the gender gap. I find that France can be divided into two main areas, the North and the South. In particular, the Northern counties that have done most to narrow the gap display better economic performance. Boys' and girls' education and family structures appear to be crucial determinants of gender equality. Gender equality is positively and significantly associated with economic performance. Accounting for the multi-dimensions of gender equality is crucial for economic development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-417
JournalJournal of demographic economics
Issue number3
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History

Free keywords

  • Development process
  • France
  • Gender equality
  • Index
  • Nineteenth century
  • J16
  • N33
  • O11


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