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Coercive Institutions and Female Empowerment: Legacies of a Colonial Experiment on Java

Prof. Dr. Michele Valsecchi

Abstract:

What are the long-run implications of coercive colonial institutions on female empowerment? In this paper, we study the short- and long-term effects of a colonial experiment - the Dutch Cultivation System on Java (1830-1870) - that forced the native population to switch from subsistence rice production to sugar and coffee cultivation for exports. First, we show that the cultivation of sugar, but not the cultivation of coffee, is associated with stronger historical women empowerment. IV estimates broadly confirm this finding. Second, on the basis of the existing literature, we test whether this institutional shock affected current female empowerment and explore potential mechanisms.

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