Trapped by misperceptions

Employment rates for women in Saudi Arabia are very low. By custom, they cannot decide for themselves whether to work or not – they need the consent of their male guardian (either their husband or father). Whether men permit their wives or daughters to work depends crucially on social norms. 

David Yanagizawa-Drott of the University of Zurich discusses his UBS Center Policy Brief with Leonardo Bursztyn (University of Chicago) and Alessandra Gonzalez which reports evidence that most Saudi men privately believe that women should be allowed to work, but that they underestimate the extent to which other men share their views. Experiments reveal that when men are informed that other men agree about women and work, they are more willing to let their wives take a job. This has real-life consequences: wives of men whose misperceptions about the acceptability of female employment have been corrected are more likely to apply and be interviewed for a job. 



Topics:  Gender Labour markets

Tags:  Saudi Arabia, female employment, gender

Professor of Development and Emerging Markets, University of Zurich


CEPR Policy Research