BREAD Working Paper No. 576, December 2020

Country of Women? Repercussions of the Triple Alliance War in Paraguay

Jennifer Alix-Garcia, Laura Schechter, Felipe Valencia Caicedo, S. Jessica Zhu


Skewed sex ratios often result from episodes of conflict, disease, and migration. Their persistent impacts over a century later, and especially in less-developed regions, remain less understood. The War of the Triple Alliance (1864–1870) in South America killed up to 70% of the Paraguayan male population. According to Paraguayan national lore, the skewed sex ratios resulting from the conflict are the cause of present-day low marriage rates and high rates of out-of-wedlock births. We collate historical and modern data to test this conventional wisdom in the short, medium, and long run. We examine both cross-border and within-country variation in child-rearing, education, labor force participation, and gender norms in Paraguay over a 150 year period. We find that more skewed post-war sex ratios are associated with higher out-of-wedlock births, more female-headed households, better female educational outcomes, higher female labor force participation, and more gender-equal gender norms. The impacts of the war persist into the present, and are seemingly unaffected by variation in economic openness or ties to indigenous culture.

Keywords: Conflict, Gender, Illegitimacy, Female Labor Force Participation, Education, History, Persistence, Paraguay, Latin America

JEL Codes: D74, I25, J16, J21, N16