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Capsule Review

The Sex Factor: How Women Made the West Rich

In This Review

The Sex Factor: How Women Made the West Rich
The Sex Factor: How Women Made the West Rich
By Victoria Bateman
Polity, 2019, 248 pp. Purchase

This provocative book mounts a feminist critique of much modern economic theory and policy, which the author claims has a strong and continuing male bias. Bateman seeks to widen the discipline’s focus on marketable goods and services to include other social and personal activities that affect economies. The most striking thesis of the book is that the “rise of the West” during and after the Industrial Revolution—a development that still puzzles many economic historians because Europe had long lagged behind China, India, and the Islamic Middle East—was due to the way women were treated differently in western European societies. Although women are subordinate to men in most societies, women enjoyed relatively greater freedom in western Europe (particularly in Protestant northwestern Europe) than in other parts of the world at the time. Women married later, had fewer children, and were better educated. This greater freedom led to more saving and more productive investment. 

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