Working Papers

The traditional expectation that married women should be homemakers precludes some married women from pursuing their comparative advantage in the labor market and discourages education. I quantify the aggregate economic consequences of gender norms in marriage, accounting for selection into education, marriage, and labor force participation. Relative to similar single women, married women of 1940 faced a norms wedge that acted as a 44% tax on market wage. By 2010, the norms wedge fell to 14%. Had norms remained at the level of 1940, the total market and home output of the current day would have been 5.5% lower.

The strength of the norm that prescribes married women to be homemakers varies across countries. This paper quantifies the homemaker norm for married women for seventeen countries. The homemaker norms wedge, calibrated based on the model proposed by Lee (2020), measures how much a 10-dollar market wage is valued at for married women, when they are deciding between working in the labor market versus working at home. The wedges are computed from the gap in the labor force participation of married women and that of similar single women that is not explained by the wage differentials. The homemaker norms wedge is found to be large, amounting to half of the parallel wedge that exists between men and women. If the homemaker norms wedges were to disappear, female labor force participation in the seventeen countries would increase by 21% on average. I show that cultural differences account for 45% of the cross-country variation in the homemaker norms wedge. 

Although gender quotas in politics are one of the most common affirmative action policies worldwide, the merits of these policies remain an object of debate. Opponents of quotas are concerned with an equity-efficiency tradeoff – quotas lower the average quality of politicians. This paper explores this tradeoff by studying the effect of gender quotas on parties’ selection of candidates in South Korean municipal council elections. South Korea provides us with a rare opportunity to observe how highly male-dominated political parties react to gender quotas: (i) we can exploit the discontinuity in the intensity of the quota’s effect at given cut-offs of council size; (ii) gender quotas were implemented in only one of two independent election arms, leaving space for adjustment in the other arm. We find that political parties initially counteract the quota by putting forth fewer female candidates in the unaffected arm. However, this pattern gradually reverses over time. The evidence is consistent with efficiency gains from the quota. Parties initially selected a suboptimally low number of women due to biased beliefs regarding their ability, but they slowly revise their beliefs after exposure. 

What makes an industrial policy successful? This paper finds that the effect of an industrial policy changes tremendously with the implementing bureaucrat. We study Korean bureaucrats who promote exports on appointments to 87 countries between 1965, when Korea was one of the world’s poorest countries, and 2001. We exploit the rotation of bureaucrats between countries to show that individual bureaucrats matter greatly in boosting exports. Moving from a bureaucrat at the 20th percentile to the median is associated with a 40% increase in exports. This effect is comparable to that of opening an office, implying that this industrial policy has no effect under a 20th percentile bureaucrat. We exploit differential import demand growth to study a mechanism via which better bureaucrats increase exports - transmitting information about market conditions. Under better bureaucrats Korean exports increase more with a product’s import demand. Finally, we investigate whether experience can bridge the gaps between bureaucrats. We isolate quasi-random variation in experience exploiting a product’s import demand growth during the bureaucrat’s first appointment. In subsequent appointments exports increase in products with greater bureaucrat experience. This highlights learning-by-doing as a channel to build bureaucratic capacity. However, the differences between bureaucrats are larger than the effect of experience, suggesting selecting good bureaucrats may be more important than training them.

Work in Progress

How does the proportion of females affect the group dynamic in a male-dominated setting? We study this question in the context of municipal council meetings in South Korea, exploiting the introduction of gender quotas in the elections for councilors. The legal requirement for councils to publish verbatim minutes of council meetings gives us the unique opportunity to observe in a systematic manner how individuals interact. Identity economics as well as a vast literature in sociology make varied predictions of male and female behavior in male-dominated settings. For example, men may hold the view of women as threats, or they may gradually become more accepting of female colleagues. Women may cope by taking on masculine attitudes and distancing themselves from female colleagues, or they may develop solidarity among themselves. We intend to analyze the minutes of the council meetings, collected by scraping the websites of all 226 municipal councils, to see how the increase in the share of female councilors affected female and male MP behavior. Measures of behavior include frequency and length of speech, proposal and endorsement of new bills, and contention against and support for other councilors. This study may also shed light on the exact mechanisms behind existing findings of gender quotas in political positions leading to female-friendly policies, by zooming in on the legislative process.