Gender Gap in Numeracy and the Role of Marital Status: Evidence from 19th century France

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Evidence of conventional human capital indicators (e.g. literacy, educational attainment, years of schooling) by marital status is rare or inexistent for the period prior to the 20th century. An indicator of human capital frequently used for the pre-1900 period is the age heaping. We employ this method to chart and analyze the heterogeneity and gender-specific differences of cognitive abilities (numeracy) across France in the mid-19th century by marital status. We find that married women heap significantly less than unmarried women, while single men heap less than married men. We explore the reliability of four hypotheses to explain those differences. We find that married and non-married women’s data are prone to bias and must be used carefully when accounting for basic numeracy skills. Yet, we find a robust correlation between literacy and numeracy. Our findings suggest that married women’s numeracy skills are more closely linked with indicators of human capital, e.g. enrollment rates, than non-married women’s and men’s numeracy skills.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-76
JournalRevue d'Economie Politique
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Economic History

Free keywords

  • Gender
  • Age heaping
  • Human capital
  • Marital status
  • Nineteenth century
  • France


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