Job Market Paper

The Legacy of the Missing Men: The Long-Run Impact of World War I on Female Labor Force Participation. November 2017

[Working paper] [Supplementary appendix]

I explore the pathways underlying the diffusion of women's participation in the labor force across generations at the individual level. I rely on a severe exogenous shock to the adult sex ratio, World War I military fatalities in France, which generated a short-run upward shift in female labor force participation. I find that this shock to female labor transmitted across generations: women residing under the same institutional conditions but born in locations exposed to higher military death rates were more likely to be in the labor force from 1962 to 2012. Three primary mechanisms account for the long-run impact of World War I military fatalities on women's working behavior: vertical intergenerational transmission (from mothers and fathers to daughters), transmission through marriage (from husbands to wives, and from mothers in-law to daughters in-law), and oblique intergenerational transmission (from migrants to non-migrants). Consistent with theories of intergenerational diffusion of female labor force participation, I provide supporting evidence that WWI military fatalities altered preferences and beliefs about female labor in the long run.

Working Papers

No Better Time Than Now: Future Uncertainty and Private Investment Under Dictatorship (with M. Albertus). November 2017

[Working paper] [Supplementary appendix]

Existing literature often points to long time horizons and the constraining effects of formal institutions such as legislatures to explain private investment under dictatorship. Prompted by numerous cases of significant private investment under relatively unconstrained dictators that lack long time horizons, this paper highlights a previously unexamined mechanism: uncertainty over expected economic returns under plausible alternative authoritarian successors. We detail two major types of uncertainty. The first is uncertainty over which among a set of diverse potential autocratic successors will rule next. The second is uncertainty in the truthfulness of policy promises made by potential autocratic successors. We build a formal model that generates predictions about how shifts in these two types of uncertainty under dictatorship impact the decisions of private actors to invest in the economy. We explore the model's plausibility and scope in several cases of uninstitutionalized dictatorship.

The Missing Men: World War I and Female Labor Participation (with J. Boehnke). May 2017

[Working paper] [Supplementary appendix]

We explore the effect of a sharp distortion in sex ratio on female labor participation by studying the impact of military fatalities from World War I in France. We build a unique dataset containing individual level information for all 1.3 million fallen soldiers, and find that the tightness of the marriage market along with negative income shocks generated by the scarcity of men induced many young single women and older widows to enter the labor force permanently after the war. These findings are robust to alternative empirical strategies, including an instrumental variables strategy based on idiosyncrasies generated by the recruitment process of the army.


Unlikely Democrats: Economic Elite Uncertainty under Dictatorship and Support for Democratization (with M. Albertus).

American Journal of Political Science, 2017, 61(3), 624-641.

[Article] [Supplementary appendix] [Replication material] [AJPS blog] [Working paper]

Influential recent scholarship assumes that authoritarian rulers act as perfect agents of economic elites, foreclosing the possibility that economic elites may at times prefer democracy absent a popular threat from below. Motivated by a puzzling set of democratic transitions, we relax this assumption and examine how elite uncertainty about dictatorship—a novel and generalizable causal mechanism impacting democratization—can induce elite support for democracy. We construct a noisy signaling model in which a potential autocrat attempts to convince economic elites that he will be a faithful partner should elites install him in power. The model generates clear predictions about how two major types of elite uncertainty—uncertainty in a potential autocratic successor's policies produced by variance in the pool of would-be dictator types, and uncertainty in the truthfulness of policy promises made by potential autocratic successors—impact the likelihood of elite-driven democratization. We demonstrate the model's plausibility in a series of cases of democratic transition.

Decomposing Culture: An Analysis of Gender, Language, and Labor Supply in the Household (with D. Hicks, E. Santacreu-Vasut and A. Shoham).

Review of Economics of the Household, 2017.

[Article] [Supplementary appendix] [Replication material] [Working paper]

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, at most one third is potentially explained by language having a causal impact.

Do Female/Male Distinctions in Language Matter? Evidence from Gender Political Quotas (with E. Santacreu-Vasut and A. Shoham).

Applied Economics Letters, 2013, 20(5), 495-498.

[Article] [Vox] [Working paper]

This article studies the determinants of gender political quota and enforcement sanctions, two key policy instruments for increasing female participation in politics. We find a novel empirical fact: language (the pervasiveness of gender distinctions in grammar) is the most significant related variable to quota adoption, more than traditional explanations such as economic development, political system and religion.

Conference Proceedings

Language and Gender Roles among Immigrants to the U.S.: A Historical Perspective (with D. Hicks and E. Santacreu-Vasut).

In P. Paolini (Ed), I Mondi Delle Donne, 165-179. Roma: Edi Cusano, 2016.

[Working paper] [Supplementary appendix] [Vox]

Our paper investigates whether historical trends in the labor market participation of immigrant women in the U.S. can be explained in part by variation in the grammatical structure of their language spoken. Using individual-level census data on the labor market behavior of first generation immigrants to the U.S. from 1910 to the present, we show that the presence or absence of grammatical gender in the linguistic structure of a language spoken by an immigrant influences sex-specific behaviors. The originality of our approach is to consider language as a repository for accumulated ancestral culture in an epidemiological framework. Because female labor force participation has greatly increased, institutions have transformed, and motivations and compositions of immigrant flows have changed, studying a long time horizon allows us to more clearly isolate the role of linguistic structure as a cultural institution.

Migration As A Window Into The Coevolution Between Language And Behavior (with D. Hicks and E. Santacreu-Vasut).

In S.G. Roberts, C. Cuskley, L. McCrohon, L. Barceló-Coblijn, O. Fehér and T. Verhoef (eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference (EVOLANG 11), 2016.


Understanding the causes and consequences of language evolution in relation to social factors is challenging as we generally lack a clear picture of how languages coevolve with historical social processes. Research analyzing the relation between language and socio-economic factors relies on contemporaneous data. Because of this, such analysis may be plagued by spurious correlation concerns coming from the historical co-evolution and dependency of the relationship between language and behavior to the institutional environment. To solve this problem, we propose migrations to the same country as a microevolutionary step that may uncover constraints on behavior. We detail strategies available to other researchers by applying the epidemiological approach to study the correlation between sex-based gender distinctions and female labor force participation. Our main finding is that language must have evolved partly as a result of cultural change, but also that it may have directly constrained the evolution of norms. We conclude by discussing implications for the coevolution of language and behavior, and by comparing different methodological approaches.