Oil discoveries did not change female labor force participation in southwest U.S.

Am teaching the paper by Michael Ross on oil, Islam and women.  Here is a nice paper by Stephan Maurer and Andrei Victor Potlogea that addresses the question with far better data and methods.

Fueling the Gender Gap? Oil and Women’s Labor and Marriage Market Outcomes
CEP Discussion Paper No 1280
25 Jul 2014

This paper analyzes the effect of resource-based economic specialization on women’s labor market outcomes. Using information on the location and discovery of major oil fields in the Southern United States coupled with a county-level panel derived from US Census data for 1900-1940, we specifically test the hypothesis that the presence of mineral resources can induce changes in the sectoral composition of the local economy that are detrimental to women’s labor market outcomes. We find evidence that the discovery of oil at the county level may constitute a substantial male biased demand shock to local labor markets, as it is associated with a higher gender pay gap. However, we find no evidence that oil wealth lowers female labor force participation or has any impact on local marriage and fertility patterns. While our results are consistent with oil shocks limiting female labor market opportunities in some sectors (mainly manufacturing), this effect tends to be compensated by the higher availability of service sector jobs for women who are therefore not driven out of the labor market.

A recent paper that takes issue with Ross is “Islamic Culture, Oil, and Women’s Rights Revisited” by Lasse Lykke Rørbæk in Politics and Religion, 2016.

According to recent research, oil abundance is the principal explanation for women’s poor human rights record in many Muslim societies. However, this study argues that resistance to gender equality in the Muslim world originates in its specific historical trajectory and that the critical juncture precedes the extraction of oil by a thousand years. The study assesses data on women’s economic, social, and political rights in 166 countries from 1999–2008 and shows that whereas the negative effect of oil is driven by the 11 members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, Muslim countries consistently underperform even when oil and gas rents and other relevant factors such as income and democracy are accounted for. The study concludes that persisting orthodox tendencies in Islamic culture provide the best explanation for Muslim women’s limited empowerment.

About mkevane

Economist at Santa Clara University and Director of Friends of African Village Libraries.
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