Analysis of the Relationship between Gender Equality and Economic Growth

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Evolution of Mortality Levels

The most currently used indicator to measure mortality levels are: the crude death rate, the rate of infant mortality and the life expectancy at birth. The crude death rate is the ratio between the number of deaths and the average population. The rate of infant mortality is defined as the number of children who died before age 1divided by the total number of living births in a given year. Finally, the life expectancy at birth is the expected number of years of life remaining at age 0.
Mortality in France underwent significant fluctuations during the second half of the 18th century and the 19th century (see Appendix Figure A-1). Numerous factors may have impacted mortality rates. Among them, wars, epidemics and famine arrive first. Several demographic crises can be observed over the sub-period 1800-1880 (Bideau, Dupâquier and Biraben, 1988). The bad crops of 1802 and 1803 may explain the variations observed in 1803-1804. However, the decline in wheat price does not seem to have had a negative impact on mortality and nuptiality (epidemic crises; dysentery). Several epidemic crises have succeeded each other’s during the 19th century. Between 1806 and 1811, wars seem to have strongly affected male mortality (Prussian and Spanish wars). In 1814, the typhus combined with foreign invasions affected the population and had a negative impact on the mortality rate. The first cholera epidemic (1832) occurred in parallel to other epidemics. These epidemics had serious consequences. Two years later, in 1834, the influenza combined with other epidemics caused severe complications for infants. Between 1847 and 1849, the French population was affected by strong crises. The year 1846 was particularly bad in terms of or crops production. In addition, economic crises occurred in 1847-1848 simultaneously to new cholera epidemics. The most lethal cholera epidemic lasted for ten years, from 1845 to 1855. Finally, major crisis happened in 1870-1871. It was triggered by a combination of war and epidemics (smallpox, measles – known as rubella, dysentery), which had the most important effect on mortality.
Infant mortality and life expectancy are two instruments allowing us to deepen our understanding of the evolution of deaths and mortality in France. Important progresses have been made in terms of health from the beginning of the 18th century. Figure 1-3 depicts the evolution of infant mortality between 1740 and 1986 and the evolution of life expectancy at birth by gender between 1806 and 2007. As expected, both curves follow a broadly symmetric inverted curve. While the rate of infant mortality dropped sharply that of the life expectancy at birth rose significantly. More precisely, infant mortality ranged from almost 300 deaths per thousand inhabitants in 1740 to less than 9 deaths in 1986. Despite a period of downturn during the 19th century, the decline was continuous over the whole period. Since 1950, infant mortality describes an asymptotic curve toward a limit close to one death per one thousand births.

Natural Balance of Mortality and Fertility

The understanding of the balance between variations in mortality levels and fertility rates is essential to determine the possible causes at the origin of the process of demographic transition. Chesnais (1992) advances three criteria to determine whether a country enter in the process of demographic transition (Figure 1-4). A country is considered as having entered the process of demographic transition if: (i) the crude birth rate declines below the threshold of 35 births per one thousand people; (ii) the growth rate of crude births experiences a sustained decline of at least 20%; and (iii) life expectancy at birth exceed the age of 50. Based on data from Chesnais and INSEE, the first criterion was already reached in 1800. The second criterion was reached in 1829. And finally, the third criterion was attained at the beginning of the 19th century – in 1907.
France is a peculiar case. We have already mentioned previously that France was the first country (with the USA) to enter the process of demographic transition but its natural growth pattern was also very different from that of other countries. During the transition, the natural increase was actually “fairly flat and maintained at around zero growth” (Chesnais, 1992). Both mortality and fertility rates declined at a similar pace. The dynamics of French population show that birth and death rates were in natural balance on three occasions between 1815 and 1914. The first demographic transition occurred in France between the French Revolution and the 1840’s (with low growth but regular – setback compared to neighbors). The following period going from 1850 to 1871 was a difficult time for the French population. This period has been strewed by crises, epidemics, wars, civil wars and hence witnessed a rise in mortality. Finally, the period going from 1871 to 1914 was characterized by the stagnation of the population around 40 million inhabitants.
Nonetheless, although the evolution of the level of the French fertility was indeed clearly different from its neighbors during the 19th century, this was not the case of the variables 1measuring mortality rates. Both infant mortality and crude death rates display similar pattern to those observed in other Western countries (such as England and Wales, Germany, Finland and Netherland). From now on, we focus primarily and more intensively on fertility levels. Such an important decline in fertility rates cannot be explained by a simple adjustment of individuals to mortality decline. Other factors must have come into play. In order to further our understanding of the forces underlying the fertility transition we need to understand how fertility declined Beyond the natural consequences of the decline in mortality, we choose to investigate the role played by individuals’ choices. What changes in behavioral patterns can explain the evolution of fertility levels?

Changing Patterns of Demographic Behavior

During the demographic transition, fertility fell sharply in parallel to the decline in mortality. The data suggests the existence of significant fertility limitation in France during the 19th century. We emphasize the existence of two main types of fertility behavior according to the strategy adopted by individuals and households. Fertility regulation can be the result of traditional means of control such as sexual abstinence, delaying age at first marriage, celibacy, age at first birth. But it can also be the result of more “modern” behaviors consisting in a direct control of the number of births within marriage through spacing out interval between births or stopping child-bearing at a certain age.

Marriage Pattern

Marriage patterns evolved over the course of the demographic transition. According to Hajnal (1965), three main features emerged from the Western European Marriage Pattern (EMP) which characterized western society in the Early Modern Period: (i) a high proportion of women never marrying; (ii) an unusually late age at first marriage for women; and (iii) a low rate of illegitimate births.


During the 19th century, France remained a country with an active nuptiality. However, women definitive celibacy rates were relatively high especially at the beginning of the century. Figure 1-5 depicts the evolution of female and male definitive celibacy rates. An individual is considered as definitively single when she reaches the age 50 without having ever been married. From Figure 1-5, we observe that the number of definitive celibacy increased substantially from the mid-17th century until the French Revolution, to a larger extent for women. From 48 single women per one thousand individuals in the 1670’s, it reached 140 per one thousand individuals at the turn of the 1790’s. In a little more than a century, the share of single women was multiplied by almost 3. Over the same period, the share of single men was multiplied by 1.3. The trend experienced a complete reversal for both genders at two different time periods. The downward trend settled clearly at the time of the French Revolution for women while it established thirty years later for men.

Age at First Marriage

The second characteristic of the European marriage pattern is the rising age at first marriage. Figure 1-6 presents the evolution of the median age at marriage by gender between 1740 and 2004. The long-run evolution of the median age at first marriage for both male and female follows a U-shaped curve.
The female and male age at marriage follow a fairly similar evolution taking into consideration that men always marry older than women. The age of male at marriage reached 29 at the end of the Ancien Régime, while that of women reached 27. Relatively late during the second half of the 18th century, the average age at marriage dropped a few years before the turn of the 19th ale century – at a faster pace and to a greater extent for women (while it was briefly stabilizing around age 28 in the mid-19th century). The age at first marriage attained its lowest point in the 1950’s with a median age of 22.5 for women and 24.6 for men. After a short period of stagnation at these lowest rates ever achieved (slightly longer for women than for men), the trend reversed again (from the sixties for women and a little before for men). From that moment, the rise was fast and sustained. Over the period of forty years, the median age at marriage increased by more than 7.5 years for both women and men, to reach almost 30 and 32 respectively in 2004.


Birth Limitation

The evolution of the French marriage pattern since the mid-18th century suggests the existence of fertility control within marriage. The data emphasize the increasing importance and its strengthening of fertility control during the second period of the French marriage pattern.

Early Contraception – Birth Control

An alternative method of fertility limitation via nuptiality is to act directly on the number of births within marriage. A classical measure of birth limitation consists in investigating birth intervals and age at last birth. The study of the evolution of birth interval reflects changes in households’ behaviors regarding fertility.
Dûpaquier and Lachiver (1969) have highlighted the existence of early birth control and notably an incipient of flexure from the mid-18th century in their study of families living in the city of Meulan (Seine-et-Oise). From the mid-18th century indeed, the share of couples displaying close (less than 18 month) and medium (between 19 and 30 month) birth interval declined. Between the periods 1669-1709 and 1790-1814, the share of couples with short birth interval dropped from 11.6% to 2.9% and that of couples with medium interval from 60.2% to 23.5%. On the contrary, long (31 to 48 months) and very long (49 months and more) birth interval increased, from 18.8% to 27.1% and from 9.4% to 59.4% respectively.7 Meulan is not an isolated case, similar trends are also observed in other cities such as Flins, Arthies, Suresnes and Paris-East, as can be observed in the following set of figures. Figure 1-8 presents the evolution by periods of births spacing in these four cities between the 18th century and the early 19th century. It is important to specify that all these cities are located in three of the most urbanized and early industrialized areas of France. We can imagine that the demographic behavior and the timing of birth limitation may differ from other regions of France with other characteristics, for instance more rural and agrarian areas. The study of the geographical distribution of Malthusian behaviors in Section 3 will help us with the understanding of the specificities of French areas.

Table of contents :

Part I. Understanding the Process of Development. An Economic History of French Women 
Chapter 1 – Changes in Demographic Behavior
1. The Demographic Transition
1.1. Evolution of Mortality Levels
1.2. Evolution of Fertility Levels
1.3. Natural Balance of Mortality and Fertility
2. Changing Patterns of Demographic Behavior
2.1. Marriage Pattern
2.1.1. Celibacy
2.1.2. Age at First Marriage
2.1.3. Illegitimate Births
2.2. Birth Limitation
2.2.1. Early Contraception – Birth Control
2.2.2. Birth Intervals between Rich and Poor
2.2.3. Women Age at Last Birth
3. Transformations of the French Demographic Landscape
3.1. Geographical Distribution of Fertility Rates
3.2. Explaining Geographical Differences in Fertility Decline
3.2.1. Specific Initial Demographic Characteristics
3.2.2. Fertility Regulation
3.2.3. Explaining Geographic Differences in Marriage Pattern
Chapter 2 – Changes in the Labor Force
1. The Evolution of the Female Labor Force
1.1. General characteristics of the Labor Force Participation by Gender since 1806
1.1.1. The Expansion of the Female Labor Force Participation
1.1.2. Changes in the labor force by sectors
1.1.3. Transformation of the Social Structure of the labor force
1.2. Life Cycle Labor Force Participation
1.2.1. Female Labor Force by Marital Status
1.2.2. Female Labor Force by Age
1.2.3. Impact of Variations in Labor Force
1.3. Regional Dynamics of the Labor force
2. General Characteristics of the Gender Gap
2.1. The Gender Gap in Earnings and Occupations
2.1.1. The Gender Gap in Occupations
2.1.2. The Gender Gap in Earnings over the Long Run
2.2. Regional Dynamics of the Gender Gap
2.2.1. Gender Differences in Occupations
2.2.2. Gender Differences in Earnings
2.2.3. Productivity versus Customs
Chapter 3 – Changes in Human Capital
1. General Characteristics of the Evolution of the Female Human Capital
1.1. Overview of Literacy Rates by Marital Status in 1851
1.1.1. Age-heaping and Literacy
1.1.2. Gender Differences in Age-heaping
1.2. The Gradual Expansion of Schooling
1.2.1. Primary Education and Feminization (with Claude Diebolt)
1.2.2. Secondary Education
1.2.3. Higher Education
1.3. Changes in Educational Investments and Aspirations
1.3.1. Years of Schooling
1.3.2. Diploma
1.3.3. Field of Specialization
2. Regional Dynamics of Schooling
2.1. Geographical Evolution of Female Literacy Rates
2.2. Distribution of Enrollment Rates in Primary Schools (with Claude Diebolt)
2.2.1. The Situation of Primary education in 1837
2.2.2. Evolution of Primary Education between 1837 and 1876
2.3. Geographical Evolution of Infrastructures
3. The Gender Gap in Human Capital
3.1. General Characteristics of the Gender Gap
3.1.1. The Gender Gap in Enrollment Rates
3.1.2. The Gender Gap in Educational Attainment and Specialization
3.1.3. The Gender Quality of the Labor Force
3.2. Regional Dynamics of the Gender Schooling Gap
Chapter 4 – Changes in Gender Relations
1. Family Organization and Gender Relations: The Role of Female Empowerment
1.1. The “Traditional” Role of Women
1.2. The Emergence of a New Socio-economic Role of Women
1.3. The “Quiet Revolution”
2. Regional Dynamics of the Gender Gap
2.1. The Gender Gap Index
2.1.1. Methodology of the Gender Gap Index
2.1.2. Geographical distribution of the Gender Gap Index
2.1.3. Links with Economic Performance and Demographic Profile
2.2. Gender Gap and Socioeconomic Status. The Positioning of French Counties
2.2.1. Methodology
2.2.2. Variables and sources
2.2.3. Factor Analysis
2.2.4. The Positioning of French Counties in mid-19th Century
Part II. Analysis of the Relationship between Gender Equality and Economic Growth
Chapter 5 – Theoretical Foundations
1. The Stylized Facts of the Development Process
1.1. Evolution of Output and Population Growth in France
1.2. The Three Phases of the Development Process
1.2.1. Stagnation – Malthusian Era
1.2.2. Take-off – Post-Malthusian Phase
1.2.3. Sustained Growth – Modern Growth Regime
1.3. Main Challenges
2. Toward a Unified Theory of Growth
2.1. Theoretical Background
2.1.1. Traditional Theories of Economic Growth
2.1.2. Theories of Demographic Transition
2.2. Unified Growth Theory
2.2.1. Building Blocks of the Theory
2.2.2. Toward Greater Integration of Gender in UGT
Chapter 6 – Unified Growth Model
1. Basic Structure of the Model
1.1. Production
1.1.1. Production of Final Output
1.1.2. The Production of Human Capital
1.1.3. Technological Progress
1.2. Individuals
1.2.1. Preferences and Budget Constraint
1.2.2. The Household Choice Problem
1.2.3. Choice of Human Capital and Fertility
1.3. Distribution of Labor Types
2. The Dynamic Evolution of the Economy
2.1. Dynamic Evolution of the Key Variables
2.1.1. The Fraction of Skilled Individuals
2.1.2. Dynamic Evolution of Gender Equality
2.1.3. Process of Technological Process
2.2. The Dynamical System
2.3. The Global Dynamics of Development
2.3.1. Non-Developed Economy
2.3.2. Transitory Economy
2.3.3. Developed Economy
Chapter 7 – Quantity-Quality Trde-off. Evidence from 19th Cnetury France
1. Related Literature
2. A County-Level Database for France
3. Evidence on the Relation between Fertility and Education in 1851
3.1. Empirical Model
3.2. Results
4. Long-run Effect of Endowment in Human Capital on Fertility Transition
4.1. Empirical Model
4.2. Results
Appendix G
General Conclusion


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