Decomposing culture: an analysis of gender, language, and labor supply in the household
Despite broad progress in closing many dimensions of the gender gap around the globe, recent research has shown that traditional gender roles can still exert a large influence on female labor force participation, even in developed economies. This paper empirically analyzes the role of culture in determining the labor market engagement of women within the context of collective models of household decision making. In particular, we use the epidemiological approach to study the relationship between gender in language and labor market participation among married female immigrants to the U.S. We show that the presence of gender in language can act as a marker for culturally acquired gender roles and that these roles are important determinants of household labor allocations. Female immigrants who speak a language with sex-based grammatical rules exhibit lower labor force participation, hours worked, and weeks worked. Our strategy of isolating one component of culture reveals that roughly two thirds of this relationship can be explained by correlated cultural factors, including the role of bargaining power in the household, and the impact of ethnic enclaves and that at most one third is potentially explained by language having a causal impact.
KeywordsLanguage Gender gap Bargaining power in the household Labor force participation Immigrants
JEL ClassificationF22 J16 Z13
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
- Davis, L., & Reynolds, M. (2016). Gendered language and the educational gender gap. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2782540.
- Dryer, M., & Haspelmath, M. (2011). The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. (Available online at http://wals.info).
- Everett, C. (2013). Linguistic relativity: Evidence across languages and cognitive domains, Vol. 25, Berlin/Boston: Walter de Gruyter GmbH.Google Scholar
- Fernández, R. (2011). Chapter 11 - does culture matter?, Vol. 1 of Handbook of social economics (pp. 481–510). North Holland: Elsevier.Google Scholar
- Fernández, R., & Fogli, A. (2009). Culture: An empirical investigation of beliefs, work, and fertility. American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 1(1), 146–177.Google Scholar
- Field, E., Pande, R., Rigol, N., Schaner, S., & Moore, C. T. (2016). On her account: Can strengthening women’s financial control boost female labor supply?, Technical report.Google Scholar
- Gay, V., Hicks, D., & Santacreu-Vasut, E. (2016). Migration as a window into the coevolution between language and behavior, In S. Roberts, C. Cuskley, L. McCrohon, L. Barceló-Coblijn, O. Fehér, & T. Verhoef (Eds.), The evolution of language: Proceedings of the 11th international conference (EVOLANGX11), Online at http://evolang.org/neworleans/papers/120.html.
- Gay V., Santacreu-Vasut E., & Shoham A. (2013). The grammatical origins of gender roles (Working Paper Series WP2013-03). Berkeley, CA: Berkeley Economic History Economic Laboratory.Google Scholar
- Grossbard, S. (2015). The marriage motive: A price theory of marriage. How marriage markets affect employment, consumption and savings. Springer-Verlag New York Inc.Google Scholar
- Inc., E. B. (2010), 2010 Britannica book of the year, Vol. 35, Encyclopaedia britannica. pp. 766–770.Google Scholar
- Lupyan G., & Dale R. (2010) Language structure is partly determined by social structure. PloS ONE, 5(1), e8559. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008559.
- Mavisakalyan A., & Weber C. (2016) Linguistic Relativity and Economics. Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Working Paper 16/05, Perth: Curtin University.Google Scholar
- Roberts S., Winters J., & Chen K. (2015) Future tense and economic decisions: Controlling for cultural evolution. PloS ONE, 10(7), e0132145. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0132145.
- Roberts S., & Winters J. (2013) Linguistic diversity and traffic accidents: lessons from statistical studies of cultural traits. PloS ONE, 8(8), e70902. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070902.
- Ruggles, S., Genadek, K., Goeken, R., Grover, J., & Sobek, M. (2015). Integrated public use microdata series: Version 6.0. [dataset]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. doi: 10.18128/D010.V6.0.
- Spolaore, E., & Wacziarg, R. (2016), Ancestry and development: New evidence. Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0820, Department of Economics, Tufts University.Google Scholar