DP14493 Male-biased Sex Ratios and Masculinity Norms: Evidence from Australia's Colonial Past

Author(s): Victoria Baranov, Ralph de Haas, Pauline Grosjean
Publication Date: March 2020
Date Revised: May 2022
Keyword(s): Cultural persistence, identity, Masculinity, Natural Experiment, Sex ratio
JEL(s): I31, J12, J16, N37, O10, Z13
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Development Economics, Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=14493

We document the historical roots and contemporary consequences of masculinity norms: beliefs about the proper conduct of men. We exploit a natural experiment in which convict transportation in the 18the and 19th centuries created a variegated spatial pattern of sex ratios across Australia. We show that in areas with heavily male-biased convict populations, relatively more men volunteered for World War I about a century later. Even at present these areas remain characterized by more violence, higher rates of male suicide and other forms of preventable male mortality, and more male-stereotypical occupational segregation. Moreover, in these historically male-biased areas, more Australians recently voted against same-sex marriage and boys (but not girls) are more likely to be bullied in school. We interpret these results as manifestations of masculinity norms that emerged due to intense local male-male competition. Once established, masculinity norms persisted over time through family socialization as well as peer socialization in schools.time through family socialization as well as peer socialization in schools.