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Catherine L. McDevitt and James R. Irwin
''Women's empowerment and economic growth: Albany, NY, 1760-1860''
( 2017, Vol. 37 No.3 )
To what extent was women's empowerment related to economic growth in the nineteenth-century US? Drawing on connections suggested by development economics, growth theory, and economic history, we look for potential causal connections between women's empowerment and economic growth in Albany, NY, in the century before the Civil War, using evidence from our samples of Albany deed records. Measures of women's control of assets (participation in the real estate market) and women's human capital (signature literacy) suggest modest improvements in the status of women over this period. However, the evidence is largely inconclusive with respect to possible connections between women's empowerment and economic growth. We find two results of note. One, an abrupt increase in women's market participation as buyers of real estate, in the decade after passage of New York's Married Women's Property Act (1848). And two, a reduction of women's illiteracy following the onset of economic growth. Although more research will be required to draw firm conclusions, we suspect that our results reflect channels of causation running from a broader process of socio-economic change to both women's empowerment and economic growth in nineteenth-century New York.
Keywords: gender inequality, women's empowerment, economic growth, illiteracy rates, pre-Civil War United States
JEL: N1 - Economic History: Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics; Growth and Fluctuations: General, International, or Comparative
O1 - Economic Development: General
Manuscript Received : Jun 27 2015 Manuscript Accepted : Aug 31 2017

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