The Journal of Law & Economics2013-09-05 2:57 AM

Human Capital Accumulation and the Expansion of Women’s Economic Rights

Abstract Between 1850 and 1920, most U.S. states enacted laws expanding the rights of married women to own and control their separate property and to own their market earnings. The economic approach to property rights implies that as married women gain economic rights, the incentive to invest in girls’ human capital will rise. This prediction is tested by examining the impact of these legal changes on girls’ school attendance rates relative to boys’. State-level census data are used to examine the effects of these changes on school attendance among all school-aged children. Integrated Public Use Microdata Series data are used to examine their effect on school attendance among children ages 15–19, who are just beyond compulsory schooling ages. Consistent with hypothesized effects, the empirical analysis shows that expanding women’s economic rights resulted in higher relative rates of school attendance by girls and had the largest effect on the 15–19 age group.

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The Journal of Law & Economics

The Journal of Law and Economics is an academic journal published by the University of Chicago Press. It publishes articles on the economic analysis of regulation and the behavior of regulated firms, the political economy of legislation and legislative processes, law and finance, corporate finance and governance, and industrial organization. The journal is sponsored by the University of Chicago Law School.

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