In colonial Massachusetts, the law required boys to attend school while girls were primarily educated at home. Because it was illegal for a married woman to own land, Abigail Adams had to use John’s name anytime she bought or sold land. And Abigail could not attend Harvard but John did.
Fast forward to 2012. In varying degrees around the world, still, women lack economic opportunity. In a recent report, The Economist tells us where and how.
First, a quick look at their criteria. Focusing on 5 broad categories, they looked at labor policy, finance, education, legal status and general business conditions. More specifically, variables included pay discrimination, ability to create a credit history, access to education, protection from violence, and property rights.
Next, the results.
Overall, ranking 128 countries, Sweden is first and Sudan last. The U.S. is #14.
Also dividing the world by affluence, researchers looked at 4 income groups. Among the 32 wealthiest nations, Sweden provides women with the most opportunity and Saudi Arabia with the least. For the next group, Lithuania tops the list and Algeria, #31 is last. The Lower Middle Income Group is led by Thailand while Sudan, #39, is at the bottom. And finally, among the poorest nations, Kenya gives women a lot more opportunity than Chad, #20.
The Economic Lesson
Why do women’s opportunities matter? One reason is economic growth. As one World Bank report concluded, “Societies that have a preference for not investing in girls pay a price for it in terms of slower growth and lower income.”
An Economic Question: Just referring to education, at home and at work, how might a women’s productive impact on economic growth change? Being able to drive a car? Owning property?