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Short and Long-Run Effects of World War II in Italy and Germany
The study of the economic consequences of imbalanced sex ratios, the latter being defined as the relative number of men and women in a certain geographical region or population, has received increasing interest in the economic literature over the last decade. Sex ratios may be considered as a measure of the marriage market tightness, with changes in the ratios being typically associated to shifts in the bargaining power of females and males on the market or within the household. A change in the relative number of males, by increasing the demand for wives, raises the relative female bargaining power on the marriage market, resulting in higher female marriage rates, higher female income and lower female participation rates induced by a standard income effect. Most of the studies that make use, directly or indirectly, of variations in sex ratios concentrate on data for the United States. The bottom line across most of these studies is that the observed association between sex ratios and social and economic conditions may be confounded by omitted variables and reverse causality.
Major migration episodes or military mobilization for the war are thus exploited as exogenous sources of variation to allow identification of the effect of changing sex ratios in a natural experiment setting.
Europe, where the bulk of battle activity was taking place, is an even more natural place to study the effects of sex imbalances induced by World War II. Whereas 170,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in battles in Europe, the total death toll in Europe was 40 Million, half of them male soldiers.
In this paper we study the implications of imbalanced sex ratios using data for Europe and the events related to World War II as an identification device in the empirical strategy. We want to add to this literature by providing evidence on the economic consequences of imbalanced sex ratios in two European countries that were significantly affected by World War II: Germany and Italy. We go beyond the literature that employs European data in several respects. First, exploit county-level data for all of Germany. Second, we exploit similar data for Italy thus taking a cross-national perspective.
Besides female labour force participation rates and marriage rates, we look into the possibility of studying the intergenerational effects of higher labour force attachment of mothers on children's education and labour market outcomes.
Sascha O. Becker is Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Warwick. He obtained his PhD from the European University Institute, Florence, in 2001. He was an Assistant Professor in Munich (2002-2008) before moving to Scotland (2008-2010). His research has appeared in international journals, including the American Economic Review and the Quarterly Journal of Economics