Mala Htun and Francesca Jensenius present their research findings on the linkages between family laws and women’s economic agency and on the question of why family laws remain discriminatory in a large group of countries despite widespread advances in women’s legal rights around the world.

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.

Mala Htun, Francesca R Jensenius, Jami Nelson-Nuñez, “Gender-Discriminatory Laws and Women’s Economic Agency”, Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, Volume 26, Issue 2, Summer 2019, Pages 193–222,

Mala Htun and S. Laurel Weldon, The Logics of Gender Justice: State Action on Women’s Rights Around the World (Cambridge University Press, 2018),