Language is a tool: it allows us to communicate complex ideas to one another. Language is also a nudge: linguistic structures can guide our thoughts in subtle ways.
In this talk, World Bank economist Owen Ozier will build on existing psychological evidence that language can influence thought. Based on new work aggregating linguistic data on more than 4,000 languages, he will present evidence relating the prevalence of grammatical gender to economic outcomes for women: female labor force participation, levels of education, and attitudes regarding women’s roles in society.
He will show country-level evidence from the entire world, using World Development Indicators, Barro-Lee education data, and World Values Survey data, as well as within-country evidence using individual-level data from both Sub-Saharan Africa and India. Across contexts and outcomes, grammatical gender is associated with adherence to more traditional gender roles; it appears to reduce both women’s labor force participation and women’s access to education. Following the presentation of these results, there will be a discussion of potential implications for policy.