Working Papers

By how much do traditional gender norms in marriage constrain aggregate output? Married women are traditionally expected to stay home and take care of the household. This gender role reduces married women’s labor force participation, away from their comparative advantage. A low likelihood of working in the future also reduces women’s incentive to get educated. I develop a model featuring education, marriage, and labor supply choices to quantify the aggregate economic consequences of gender norms in marriage. I find that relative to single women, married women in 1940 U.S. faced a norms wedge that acted as a 44% tax on market wage. By 2010, the norms wedge had fallen to 14%. Had gender norms remained at the level of 1940, married women of the current day would have had a 31% lower labor force participation rate, 23% lower market earnings, and their total market and home output would have been lower by 10%. For the aggregate economy, total market and home output would have been 3.8% lower. I validate the model through a reduced form analysis, which uses county-level variation in World War 2 casualties that increased female labor force participation and consequently weakened traditional gender norms.

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 popular affirmative action policies worldwide, they might prove ineffectual if they suffer from active resistance by incumbent males. South Korean municipal council elections provide us with a rare opportunity to observe in very rich ways how highly male-dominant political parties react to gender quotas. Specifically, gender quotas were implemented in only one of the two independent election arms, so we are able to observe what happened in the arm that is unaffected by quota. We analyze the effect of the quota on parties’ selection of candidates, by exploiting the discontinuity in the intensity of the quota’s effect at certain cutoffs of council size. We find that municipalities stipulated to elect more females initially counter the quota by putting forth fewer female candidates in the unconstrained arm, but over time this pattern gradually overturns. We show evidence that the changing reaction to the quota stems from parties learning about the competency of females after having experienced a female councilor, in particular the parties that had a male preference previously. This paper suggests that affirmative action policies can still be effective over time despite initial resistance by the incumbents, even in settings where the target group consists a very small minority among incumbents.

Work in Progress

  • Group Composition and Group Decision-Making: Evidence from Municipal Council Meetings in South Korea (with Oriana Bandiera, Stephen Hansen, Andrea Prat, and Martina Zanella)

[Data collection 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.