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Economic Development and Female Labor Participation in the Middle East and North Africa : A Test of the U-Shape Hypothesis

ADULT WOMEN AGE GROUP AGE GROUPS AGRICULTURAL OUTPUT AGRICULTURAL SECTOR AGRICULTURE BARGAINING BENEFICIAL EFFECTS CHANGES IN FERTILITY DECLINE IN FERTILITY DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGES DEVELOPING COUNTRIES DEVELOPMENT ECONOMICS DEVELOPMENT POLICY DIVERSIFICATION DIVISION OF LABOUR DRIVERS ECONOMETRICS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ECONOMIC GROWTH ECONOMIC HISTORY ECONOMIC SHOCKS EDUCATED WOMEN EDUCATION OF WOMEN EQUATIONS FAMILY FARMS FAMILY SIZE FEMALE EDUCATION FEMALE EMPLOYMENT FEMALE LABOR FEMALE LABOR FORCE FEMALE PARTICIPATION FERTILITY FERTILITY RATE FERTILITY RATES FUTURE RESEARCH GDP GDP PER CAPITA GENDER EQUALITY GENDER GAP GENDER NORMS GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT PER CAPITA HOUSEHOLD CHORES HUMAN CAPITAL INCOME EFFECT INTERNATIONAL LABOR ORGANIZATION JOBLESS GROWTH JOBS LABOR DEMAND LABOR FORCE LABOR FORCE PARTICIPATION LABOR MARKET LABOR MOBILITY LABOR SUPPLY LABORERS MACROECONOMIC PERFORMANCE MARRIAGE AGE MARRIED WOMEN MORTALITY NATURAL RESOURCE NATURAL RESOURCES OCCUPATIONS OUTPUTS PER CAPITA INCOME POLICY DISCUSSIONS POLICY RESEARCH POLICY RESEARCH WORKING PAPER POVERTY REDUCTION PREGNANCIES PREVIOUS RESULTS PREVIOUS SECTION PROGRESS PURCHASING POWER PURCHASING POWER PARITY REGIONAL FACTORS REGIONAL GROUPING REGIONAL LEVEL REGIONAL PATTERN REGIONAL PERFORMANCE RURAL AREAS SECONDARY EDUCATION SOCIAL SCIENCE STRUCTURAL CHANGE STRUCTURAL TRANSFORMATION SUBSTITUTION EFFECT UNEMPLOYED UNEMPLOYED FEMALES UNEMPLOYMENT UNEMPLOYMENT RATES UNPAID WORKERS URBAN AREAS VALUE ADDED WAGES WEALTH WOMAN WORKER WORLD REGIONS
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World Bank, Washington, DC
Middle East and North Africa | North Africa | Middle East
2014-06-26T20:15:53Z | 2014-06-26T20:15:53Z | 2014-06

The Middle East and North Africa region is known for having low female labor market participation rates as compared with its level of economic development. A possible explanation is that these countries find themselves at the turning point of the U-shape hypothesis when countries transition from declining to rising female participation rates. This paper tests the U-shape hypothesis in countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It finds that the region has outperformed other world regions in terms of the main drivers of the U-shape hypothesis, including gross domestic product per capita, economic transformation away from the agricultural sector, female education, and fertility rates. These facts are consistent with nonparametric evidence that shows countries in the region are distributed over a U-shaped curve. However, parametric tests of the hypothesis point in a different direction. The region shows an inverted U-shape overall and great heterogeneity across countries and age cohorts that defies any law on the relation between gross domestic product and female participation rate. The explanation behind these findings may be economic and cultural. Jobless growth and the lack of growth in employment sectors such as manufacturing and services, which proved critical for female employment in other countries, weaken labor demand and strengthen the role of institutions that may discourage female participation, such as marriage, legislation, and gender norms.

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