The Geography of Women's Economic Opportunity
At the APEC Summit this past September, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton argued that women are a great untapped economic resource. "There is a stimulative and ripple effect that kicks in when women have greater access to jobs and the economic lives of our countries," she told the delegates there.
It's a noble aspiration to be sure, but substantial barriers remain. An Economist report on the subject noted that:
Overall, economic opportunities for women still lag those of men. Women, on average, earn 75 percent of their male co-workers’ wages, and the difference cannot be explained solely by schooling or experience. In many countries, women have fewer educational and employment opportunities than men, are more often denied credit, and endure social restrictions that limit their chances for advancement. In some developing countries women still cannot vote, own property or venture outside the home without a male family member.
A wide range of metrics have been developed to gauge the opportunity and treatment afforded women around the world. With help from my Martin Prosperity Institute colleagues Charlotta Mellander and Zara Matheson, I've mapped some key ones below. A follow-up post will look at the factors associated with women's economic opportunity around the world.
The first map charts the United Nation’s Gender Inequality Index, which reflects inequality between men and women in three spheres: labor force participation, educational attainment and political representation and reproductive health (based on the maternal mortality rate and the adolescent fertility rate). On this map, a higher score reflects a higher level of gender inequality.
The second map charts how nations stack up on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index, which gauges the magnitude of the gender gap in four areas: economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment and health and survival. Note that the higher the score, the lower the gap.
The third map shows how nations score on the Gender Equity Index based on indicators of education, economic participation and empowerment. The higher the score, the more equitable the treatment of women is.
The fifth map charts the Women’s Opportunity Index, a comprehensive measure developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit. It is based on 26 indicators, including jobs and the labor market, access to finance, women’s legal and social status and the general business environment. The higher the score the greater the level of economic opportunity afforded to women.
While there are some differences among these maps the basic pattern is the same: Women face less barriers and more opportunity in more advanced countries.
This is in line with a good deal of research on the subject, which documents the connection between economic development, higher levels of education and more open-minded and tolerant values.
Ronald Inglehart’s World Value Surveys, conducted over four decades now, show that societies which emphasize tolerance, individual autonomy and self-expression over hierarchical, authoritarian values also have higher levels of economic development.
Economists Marcus Noland and Howard Pack of the Peterson Institute for International Economics have found that nations that are more open-minded, particularly in their attitudes toward gays, have more global orientations and higher levels of economic performance.
Scott Page, a University of Michigan economist, argues that economic development, innovation and entrepreneurship are spurred by higher levels of cognitive diversity, which in turn is associated with higher levels of cultural and demographic diversity. My own research suggests similar connection between openness and economic vibrancy.
Societies that empower women tend to be open to other kinds of diversity as well, which enables them to more fully utilize the talent and human capital of their people - foreign born, religious and ethnic minorities, gays and women alike. The treatment of women reflects a society’s commitment to equality and social justice. But it also reflects its ability to harness human capital, advance to innovative frontiers and generate higher levels of economic prosperity for all members.
In my next post, I'll look more closely at the connection between women's economic opportunity and the economic development of nations.