"High-Value Work and the Rise of Women: The Cotton Revolution and Gender Equality in China"

April 24, 2019 - 4:30 pm
a sample of cotton cloth with a geometric design

Melanie Meng Xue, postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University, will present her studies of a unique historical experiment on relative female income: the cotton revolution and its impact on the emergence of gender-equitable beliefs. The cotton revolution led to a prolonged phase (1300-1840 AD) of high productivity for women. She hypothesizes that a substantial, long-standing increase in relative female income can erode a resilient cultural belief: that women are less capable than men. Using variation across 1,489 counties in cotton spinning and weaving, she observes the trends in prenatal sex selection, gender-equitable beliefs and widow suicide in the 17th century. To further isolate the channel of gender-equitable beliefs, she estimates the effect of the cotton revolution under post-1949 state socialism-- where both genders had similar economic opportunities and political and legal rights --on predicting a higher probability for the wife to head the household. In addition, she observes the differences between high-value work and low-value work performed by women in shaping gender-equitable beliefs.

Contact Info

Jessie Berlingo
(413) 542-5841
image of e-mail address@amherst.edu