The Economics of Women’s Rights
Michèle Tertilt, Anne Hannusch, Matthias Doepke and Laura Montenbruck
Two centuries ago, in most countries around the world, women were unable to vote, had no say over their own children or property, and could not obtain a divorce. Women have gradually gained rights in many areas of life, and this legal expansion has been closely intertwined with economic development. We aim to understand the drivers behind these reforms. To this end, we distinguish between four types of women’s rights—economic, political, labor, and body—and document their evolution over the past 50 years across countries. We summarize the political-economy mechanisms that link economic development to changes in women’s rights and show empirically that these mechanisms account for a large share of the variation in women’s rights across countries and over time.