Gender inequality and linguistic determinism

Our preferred specification suggests that grammatical gender is associated with a 12 percentage point reduction in women’s labor force participation and an almost 15 percentage point increase in the gender gap in labor force participation. These associations are robust to the inclusion of a wide range of geo-graphic controls (including suitability for the plough) that could not plausibly have beenimpacted by language. Taken at face value, our coefficient estimates suggest that gender languages keep approximately 125 million women around the world out of the labor force.


Stumbled across this fantastic paper about the subtle affect that grammar can have on how we think. In this case, languages that sort nouns into gendered categories are associated with poorer labour market outcomes for women.

It reminds me of similar research showing that people from language groups that don’t clearly separate the future from the present (such as German) “save more, retire with more wealth, smoke less, practice safer sex, and are less obese”.

And it seems to fit with the findings from many other fields:


Our results are consistent with research in psychology, linguistics, and anthropology suggesting that languages shape patterns of thought in subtle and subconscious ways….


It all comes back to my main takeaway from The Heretics: we really don’t have a good working model for how we form beliefs, make decisions or even behave. There are profound contextual factors affecting all of these. I’m not sure how we fix this.

(My emphasis)