All publications
  2016 - Scholarly publications
Carmichael, S.G., Dilli, S.D. & van Zanden, J.L. (2016). Introduction: Family Systems and Economic Development. Economic History of Developing Regions, 31 (1), (pp. 1-9) (9 p.).
Carmichael, S.G., de Pleijt, A.M., van Zanden, J.L. & De Moor, M. (2016). The European Marriage Pattern and its measurement. Journal of Economic History, 76 (1), (pp. 196-204) (9 p.).
  2015 - Scholarly publications
Carmichael, Sarah, Dilli, Selin & Rijpma, Auke (2015). Women in Global Economic History. A History of the Global Economy: From 1500 to the Present Cambridge: University Press.
  2014 - Scholarly publications
Dilli, S., Rijpma, A. & Carmichael, S. G. (2014). Achieving gender equality: development versus historical legacies. CESifo Economic Studies (34 p.).
Carmichael, Sarah, Dilli, Selin & Rijpma, Auke (02.10.2014). Gender Inequality since 1820. In Auke Rijpma, Jan Luiten van Zanden, Marcel Timmer, Joerg Baten, Marco Mira d'Ercole & Conal Smith (Eds.), How Was Life? Global Well-being since 1820 (pp. 217-248). OECD Publishing.
  2014 - Other output
Carmichael, Sarah, Rijpma, Auke & van der Vleuten, Lotte (2014). Child Quantity versus Quality: - Household structure, number of siblings, and educational attainment in the long nineteenth century.
  2013 - Other output
Carmichael, S.G., Rijpma, A. & Dilli, S.D. (30.09.2013). Development Versus Legacy: The Relative Role of Development and Historical Legacies in Achieving Gender Equality. CESifo Working Paper Series No. 4411.
  2011 - Scholarly publications
Carmichael, S.G., De Moor, T. & van Zanden, J.L. (2011). Introduction. History of the Family, 16 (4), (pp. 309-311) (3 p.).
Carmichael, Sarah (2011). Marriage and power: - Age at first marriage and spousal age gap in lesser developed countries. History of the Family, 16 (4).
  2011 - Professional publications
Carmichael, S.G., De Moor, T. & van Zanden, J.L. (2011). "When the heart is baked, don't try to knead it." Huwelijksleeftijd en leeftijdsverschil tussen partners als maatstaf van 'agency' van vrouwen. In Th. Engelen, O. Boonstra & A. Janssens (Eds.), Levenslopen in Transformatie; liber amicorum bij het afscheid van prof. dr. Paul M.M. Klep (pp. 208-221) (14 p.). Nijmegen: Valkhof.
  0 - Other output
S.G. Carmichael (0). Marriage Patterns, Household Formation and Economic Development. Conference 'Marriage Patterns, Household Formation and Economic Development'.
S.G. Carmichael (0). Since the groundbreaking work of North (1990), institutions are seen as important drivers of economic development. More recently, Acemoglu et al. (2002, 2005) empirically demonstrated the importance of inclusive institutions to explain diverging patterns of global development. Economic history has also taken up this research agenda and consequently institutions now have a key role in the study of development in the very long term. However, much of the research focuses on macro-level, formal institutions (e.g., economic and political institutions that ensure the protection of individual economic freedoms such as property rights). A crucial, but underexplored factor remains: the role of persistent, informal institutions that operate at the micro-level, which have recently be shown to matter for development outcomes (Nunn 2012; Alesina et al. 2013). A prime example of one such institution is the family, where key economic decisions are made. One strand of literature argues that family plays a role in transmission of norms, beliefs, and values, which matter for economic, political and social outcomes. Another strand of literature, invoking the famous “quantity–quality tradeoff” argument, highlights the link between household structure, namely the number of children and human capital formation (Diebolt and Perrin 2013). Both the work of Amartya Sen (2001) and the World Bank (2012) highlights women’s agency, the capacity of individuals to make meaningful decisions about their lives, as a key contributor to the development process. Creating equal opportunities for women is important for three reasons: firstly the misallocation of women’s skills has a high economic cost; secondly the control women have over their own lives and resources shapes the next generation in terms of their children’s health, education and nutrition; and lastly because increasing agency of women both at the individual and at the collective level can produce superior institutions and policy outcomes. The following call for papers is for a two-day conference to take place in Utrecht on 18–20 December 2014. We invite proposals on the long-term relation between development and informal institutions, with a particular focus on family organisation and the decision making power of women, both at the micro and the macro level. Though we focus on the past two centuries, we welcome proposals on all periods. Abstracts should be no longer than 500. The abstracts should be sent to by 30th of June. a This conference is by invitation only and is made possible by NWO project,” Agency, Gender, and Economic Development in the World Economy, 1850-2000”. Funding for transport and accommodation is available. Deep Causes of Economic Development Conference.
S.G. Carmichael (0). The History of the Family.
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Completed projects

Agency, Gender, and Economic Development in the World Economy 1850-2000 01.10.2011 to 01.10.2015
General project description

Does economic development contribute to and result in more ‘agency’, the power of individuals to decide for themselves? And is the reverse also true? Can we find a link between historical developments (e.g. the advent of literacy) and institutions (laws, family forms, political systems) which promoted agency and the actual economic developments in the various countries of the world? These questions are central in this research project.

Nobel Prize laureate Amartya Sen (1999) already argued that the ‘freedom’ to realize one’s potential is a major determinant and contributing factor of economic development. A crucial factor in this respect is ‘human capital formation’: education will increase the agency of people - enhance their possibilities to shape their own lives – and is at the same time an essential ingredient of economic development. We aim to study these interrelationships in depth, with a specific focus on gender. Given the crucial role of women in socialization (producing human capital of the new generation), we will look closely at (institutions creating) gender differences in agency.

Thus, we study the interaction between agency and economic development at two, interrelated levels: at the micro level of household and family formation (are men and women allowed and able to make their own choices in this respect, or are – for example – marriages arranged?) and at the macrolevel of the state (are people allowed and able to be involved in the political decision making process?). We have developed innovative ways to measure these variables on a global scale. This will allow us to contribute significantly to the important debates among social scientist and historians about these links. Moreover, we think that adding the dimension of gender will deepen the analysis of these relationships.

Role PhD Candidate
Individual project description 1) Agency, gender and family systems

In this subproject we will elaborate on existing typologies of family forms in the world, in particular with respect to female agency. Moreover, we will link our indicators to economic performance. Well-known is 1 In Asia: China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey; in Europe: UK, Netherlands, France, Russia/USSR, Germany, Poland, Italy, Spain, Sweden; in Africa: Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria; in the Americas: US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina; and Australia. the typology created by John Hajnal (1965, 1982) who was the first to show that family formation in north-western Europe was characterized by late and infrequent marriage, when compared to the rest of the world. In addition to late marriage, the area stood out with the life-cycle service and neo-local household formation. Another rather influential typology, based on the combination of co-residence and inheritance practices, has been developed by Emmanuel Todd (1985, 1987, 1990). Based on differences in kinship ties, David Reher (1998) has sketched ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ family systems in respectively northwestern and southern Europe. Others focus on the nature of differences in interpersonal relationships between property-based and power-based societies (Tsuya et al 2010). Finally, Göran Therborn (2004) has proposed a ‘geocultural road map’ that divides the world into broad regions in which people (even belonging to different religions) share basic attitudes towards sexuality, marriage and gender relations. For our purpose, we will take out crucial elements from these typologies, and combine them with data from population censuses (IPUMS) and the Ethnographic Atlas, to arrive at a ‘world map of female agency’. We will focus on patterns of marriage, co-residence and inheritance. Marriage. Even now, there are wide differences in the world in parental control on marriage as well as in age at marriage, differences that strongly reflect past patterns (Kalmijn 2007, Therborn 2004). Clearly, arranged marriages at an early age reflect much less agency and autonomy than a free choice of partner at a relatively advanced age. According to Edlund and Lagerlöff (2006), the shift from arranged to the ‘love’ marriage redirected marriage costs from the parents to the couple, inducing investment and human capital accumulation. Moreover, when wives were (much) younger than their husbands, their position tended to be weaker still (Todd 1987). Culture and religion co-determined the relative positions of husbands and wives. Finally, demographic imbalances at the marriage market may exert an influence of their own. Thus, a relative scarcity of women might strengthen their bargaining position (Angrist 2002). Co-residence. According to anthropologist Michel Verdon, people will strive to live in ‘atomistic’, nuclear families, in order to maximize their individual autonomy (Verdon 1998). However, as one’s livelihood often depended on co-working an indivisible family plot, co-residence of several married couples occurred frequently and in many forms. When the older couple remained at the head of the extended household, the autonomy of the younger generation was often severely limited. In cases of ‘community families’ with more than two co-residing couples, as in China, authority depended on (male) birth order as well (Lee and Campbell 1997). Inheritance. Family norms regulate the transfer of material assets from one generation to the next. Rules of transmission favoring one child over the other, or one gender over the other, affect personal agency and thus human capital formation. There are diverging hypotheses on the causal mechanisms. According to Todd (1987) the strongest positions for (relatively older) women occurred when women could inherit and were part of the senior couple in a multigenerational household. In his view, the ‘stem family’ societies of Central Europe and Japan, offered women strong positions with a beneficial effect on educational investments. However, other authors emphasize the positive effects of ‘uncertainty’ with respect to inheritance. Thus, in the ‘absolute nuclear family systems’ of, among others, Holland and Great Britain no one was assured of an inheritance, leading to a relatively individualistic and enterprising mentality, which in its turn was related to economic success (Duranton et al 2009). With respect to demographic behavior we expect that gender equity and (female) agency is reflected in access to education and relatively early adoption of birth control. Female agency will also be reflected in female labour market participation and limited gender wage differentials. The family-related agency indicators will also be directly related to the economic performance indicators (e.g. Kick et al 2000). One of the challenges will be to uncover the direction of causal chains. Past family patterns explain not only the current regional variation (within Europe) in housing and care for the elderly by children or other kin (Keck and Blome 2008), but also economic performance (Duranton et al 2009) and demographic behaviour (Kalmijn 2007). What is still unknown, however, is by what mechanism of path dependency traditional family systems have survived and still exert influence. Family norms and marriage patterns may have a long history, but they are not immutable. Economic change can engender new behavior (e.g. earlier marriage; migration, nuclearization of families), which may stimulate or hamper further economic development. Thus, the project will also take account of alternative explanations for the relationship between family structures and economic growth and potential causal flows in the reverse direction.
NWO grant
Project members UU
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Currently dr. Sarah Carmichael teaches the following course(s):
GKMVD16016 Ges-Growth and Inequality, 1000-2000 V M 5.0

Tutorial supervisor:

Summer 2012: World History

Spring 2011: Analysis of Innovation and Competitiveness Policy

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Full name
dr. S.G. Carmichael Contact details
Drift 10

Drift 10
Room -
The Netherlands

Mobile phone +31 64 579 4906
Postal address
Drift 6
3512 BS    UTRECHT
The Netherlands
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Last updated 24.10.2013