Gender-Discriminatory Laws and Women’s Economic Agency

Written by

Francesca R. Jensenius

Research Professor (part time)


Recent years have seen widespread advances in women’s legal rights in many countries. In other places, restrictions on women’s autonomy remain entrenched. This study explores cross-country patterns in the association between gender-discriminatory legislation and various indicators of women’s economic agency. We find that restrictions on legal capacity predict women’s asset ownership and labor force participation, while discrimination in wage work and parental leave are associated with the size and direction of wage gaps. These findings highlight the importance of conceptualizing and measuring legal rights and their potential effects as multidimensional.