Colonialism and Female Empowerment: A Two-Sided Legacy

  • Citation: Guarnieri, Eleonora, and Helmut Rainer. ‚ÄúColonialism and Female Empowerment: A Two-Sided Legacy.‚Äù Journal of Development Economics 151 (2021)
    • Topics:
    • Great Power Conflict
    • Human Rights
    • Keywords:
    • colonization
    • female economic empowerment
    • intimate partner violence

This paper studies the long-term effects of colonialism on women by utilizing a historical natural experiment: the partition of Cameroon into a British and a French colony between 1919 and 1961. The two colonial regimes opened up divergent economic opportunities for women in an otherwise culturally and geographically homogeneous setting. Women in British territories gained opportunities to earn cash wages under the same conditions as their male counterparts, while the French colonial practice invested in the male employment dominated infrastructure sector. We use the former Anglo-French border within today’s Cameroon in a geographical regression discontinuity design. Our main finding shows that the British colonial rule had a two-sided legacy for women that is still visible today. On the one hand, it empowered women economically in terms of access to employment and being paid in cash wages. On the other hand, it made women highly vulnerable to domestic violence. These results are incompatible with household bargaining models that incorporate domestic violence. Supplementary analyses suggest our findings can be accommodated by theories of male backlash

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