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Gendered Language

October 23, 2018

Washington, DC and Online


  • 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.

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    Owen Ozier


    Owen Ozier is an Economist in the World Bank's Development Research Group, Human Development Team. He received his M.Eng. and B.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and in Brain and Cognitive Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1999, and his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley in 2010. His current research projects focus on health, education, and economic decisions in Kenya.


    Asli Demirgüç-Kunt

    Director of Research

    Asli Demirgüç-Kunt is the Director of Research in the World Bank. After joining the Bank in 1989 as a Young Economist, she has held different positions, including Director of Development Policy, Chief Economist of Financial and Private Sector Development Network, and Senior Research Manager, doing research and advising on financial sector and private sector development issues.

    Caren Grown

    Senior Director, Gender

    Caren Grown is an internationally recognized expert on gender issues in development. Prior to joining the Bank, she was Economist-In-Residence and co-director of the Program on Gender Analysis in Economics at American University (AU) in Washington, DC. In 2013-2014, she led the UNU-WIDER program on aid effectiveness and gender equality, an international effort which resulted in 22 commissioned papers and a global synthesis. During 2011-2013 she took leave from AU to serve as Senior Gender Advisor and Acting Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), where she crafted the Agency’s Gender Equality and Female Empowerment policy and led efforts to implement it in systems and programs.

  • The Policy Research Talks showcase the latest findings of the research department and their implications for World Bank operations. The monthly event facilitates a dialogue between researchers and operational staff so that we can challenge and contribute to the World Bank's intellectual climate and re-examine conventional wisdom in current development theories and practices. Read More »


  • Time: 12:30 – 2:00PM ET
  • Location: MC 13-121