Agency, Gender and Economic Development in the World Economy 1850–2000: Testing the Sen Hypothesis, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Agency, Gender and Economic Development in the World Economy 1850–2000

Testing the Sen Hypothesis, 1st Edition

Edited by Jan Luiten van Zanden, Auke Rijpma, Jan Kok


196 pages | 39 B/W Illus.

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How has ‘agency’ – or the ability to define and act upon one’s goals – contributed to global long-term economic development during the last 150 years? This book asserts that autonomous decision making, and female agency in particular, increases the potential of a society to generate economic growth and improve its institutions.

Inspired by Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach and looking at this in comparison to contemporary economic theory, the collection of chapters tackles the issue of agency from the micro level of household and family formation and asks how this applies to gender at regional and state level. It brings to the fore new empirical data from across the globe to test the links between family systems, female agency, human capital formation, political institutions and economic development and puts these into broader historical context.

It will appeal to scholars researching social policy, gender studies, economic history, development studies and philosophy, as well anyone with interests in the long-term societal development of the world economy and issues of global inequality.

Table of Contents

List of Figures

List of Tables

Notes on Contributors


Chapter 1. Introduction (Jan Luiten Van Zanden)

Chapter 2. Women’s agency in historical family systems (Jan Kok)

Chapter 3. Measuring agency (Sarah Carmichael and Auke Rijpma)

Chapter 4. Quantity versus Quality: Household Structure, Number of Siblings, and Educational Attainment in the Long Nineteenth Century (Sarah Carmichael, Auke Rijpma and Lotte van der Vleuten)

Chapter 5. The best thermometer: A Long run perspective on Indian gender inequality in British ruled states (Lotte van der Vleuten, Sarah Carmichael, Selin Dilli)

Chapter 6. The Deep Causes of Economic Development: Family Systems and Female Agency (Selin Dilli)

Chapter 7. Conclusions (Sarah Carmichael and Jan Luiten Van Zanden)


About the Editors

Jan Luiten van Zanden is Professor of Global Economic History at Utrecht University.

Auke Rijpma is an Assistant Professor and Post Doctoral researcher in the Economic and Social History research group of Utrecht University.

Jan Kok is Professor of Economic, Social and Demographic History at the Radboud University, Nijmegen.

About the Series

Gender and Well-Being

Wellbeing is a multidimensional and multidisciplinary concept which draws on insights from across the humanities and social sciences. This series approaches these issues from an explicitly gendered perspective. It explores the ways in which gender impacts on all aspects of women’s and men’s wellbeing. It examines the extent to which women and men have used their agency to gain access to a decent, equitable and sustainable quality of life; and it explores the ways in which economic and social policies have sustained and enhanced wellbeing for women and men, both now and in the past.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Children's Studies
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Disease & Health Issues