Human capital accumulation and the expansion of women's economic rights

Rick Geddes, Dean Lueck, Sharon Tennyson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Between 1850 and 1920, most U.S. states enacted laws expanding the rights of married women to own and control their separate property and to own their market earnings. The economic approach to property rights implies that as married women gain economic rights, the incentive to invest in girls' human capital will rise. This prediction is tested by examining the impact of these legal changes on girls' school attendance rates relative to boys'. State-level census data are used to examine the effects of these changes on school attendance among all school-aged children. Integrated Public Use Micro data Series data are used to examine their effect on school attendance among children ages 15-19, who are just beyond compulsory schooling ages. Consistent with hypothesized effects, the empirical analysis shows that expanding women's economic rights resulted in higher relative rates of school attendance by girls and had the largest effect on the 15-19 age group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)839-867
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Law and Economics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law


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