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Huali WU - ESSEC

Huali Wu (ESSEC) will present "Does early marriage shape gender role attitudes ? Evidence from a schooling reform in China"

Abstract :
Experiences early in life durably shape individual attitudes. Since gender is a prominent part of an individual’s identity and culture, and marriage determines both the incentive structure and available choice sets for women in the family, this study asks whether early marriage is one of these experiences that influences the formation of gender roles. However, identifying the impact of early marriage on attitudes is challenging because attitudes may affect the decision to marry early. To address this reverse causality concern, I employ the Compulsory Schooling Law of 1986 in China, which provides exogenous variation in the decision to postpone marriage for both men and women. To capture the dynamic matching process in marriage, the Compulsory Schooling Law of spouses is an additional instrumental variable. I identify a robust negative causal relationship between early marriage and progressive gender role attitudes. By manipulating the schooling channel on marriage among groups with heterogeneous effects of the law, I identify the causal relationships between exposure to marriage and gender role attitudes. By examining the effects of years of schooling reform on non-gender-related attitudes, I rule out the direct effect of schooling on attitudes. This paper sheds light on the dynamic interplay between marriage as a formal institution and gender role attitudes as an informal institution. Further, it provides evidence of an additional channel through which an increased length of schooling for young girls, particularly from disadvantaged households, can improve their future welfare by postponing their age at first marriage and, by doing so, developing more progressive gender role attitudes.