Whether women have equal rights to inherit as men serves can serve as an indication of their legal standing and general and is also and important determinant of their economic position in itself, specifically whether they are able to accumulate wealth. Inheritance practices of ethnic groups from the Ethnographic Atlas were used to reconstruct inheritance practices at the country level for c. 1920 and the World Bank’s 50 Years of Women's Legal Rights was used for data on the inheritance in 1960, 1980, and 2000


Sarah Carmichael, Selin Dilli and Auke Rijpma, Utrecht University

Production date

2 September 2014


Gender equal inheritance


Gender equality, institutions

Time period


Geographical coverage

Worldwide, selected countries

Methodologies used for data collection and processing

The data was extracted from the revised, electronic version of Murdock’s (1969) Ethnographic Atlas (EA). It is published by the World Cultures journal: and the raw data itself is available at . Bolt (2012) recoded all the ethnic group-level variables to the country level (see Carmichael and Rijpma (2014) for more details). If the majority of the population of a country practiced some form of inheritance that gave women a stronger position than patrilineal inheritance towards men did, it was coded as equal. This included matrilineal (sister’s sons and other matrilineal heirs) and bilateral (both schemes where daughters inherited completely equally or inherited less). This wide definition of gender-equal inheritance has been used because in 1920 patrilineal inheritance was still the norm. The data from Hallward-Driemeier, Hasan, and Rusu (2013) considers the de jure rights of daughters to inherit equally to sons

Period of collection

See references

Data collectors

Auke Rijpma

The data from the EA is generally considered sufficient for Africa, but coverage and the ethnographic bases for Eurasia and the Americas is patchy and significant flaws have been uncovered for other variables in the EA in these regions. See Carmichael and Rijpma (2014) for a test of the Murdock data. For the data quality from 1960 onwards, see Hallward-Driemeier, Hasan, and Rusu (2013)

General references

Bolt, J. (2012), “A New Database on the Origins of Institutional

Development”, University of Groningen working paper.

Carmichael, S. and A. Rijpma (2014), “Testing Todd: Global Data on

Family Characteristics”,



Deere, Carmen Diana, Abena D. Oduro, Hema Swaminathan, and Cheryl Doss.

2013. “Property Rights and the Gender Distribution of Wealth in

Ecuador, Ghana and India.” The Journal of Economic Inequality 11 (2):

249–65. doi:10.1007/s10888-013-9241-z.

Hallward-Driemeier, Mary, Tazeen Hasan, and Anca Bogdana Rusu. 2013.

“Women’s Legal Rights over 50 Years: Progress, Stagnation or

Regression?” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, no. 6616. c.

urdock, George Peter. 1969. Ethnographic Atlas. 2nd print. Pittsburg:

Univ. of Pittsburgh Press.


Anguilla[No Data]

Antigua and Barbuda1500 (5)-2013 (21)

Aruba[No Data]

Bahamas1500 (5)-2013 (23)

Barbados1500 (5)-2013 (27)

Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba[No Data]

British Virgin Islands[No Data]

Cayman Islands[No Data]

Cuba1500 (8)-2012 (34)

Curaçao[No Data]

Dominica1500 (5)-2013 (20)

Dominican Republic1500 (6)-2013 (40)

Grenada1500 (5)-2013 (21)

Guadeloupe[No Data]

Haiti1500 (6)-2013 (36)

Jamaica1500 (6)-2013 (38)

Martinique[No Data]

Montserrat[No Data]

In 2010, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) awarded a subsidy to the Clio Infra project, of which Jan Luiten van Zanden was the main applicant and which is hosted by the International Institute of Social History (IISH). Clio Infra has set up a number of interconnected databases containing worldwide data on social, economic, and institutional indicators for the past five centuries, with special attention to the past 200 years. These indicators allow research into long-term development of worldwide economic growth and inequality.

Global inequality is one of the key problems of the contemporary world. Some countries have (recently) become wealthy, other countries have remained poor. New theoretical developments in economics - such as new institutional economics, new economic geography, and new growth theory - and the rise of global economic and social history require such processes to be studied on a worldwide scale. Clio Infra provides datasets for the most important indicators. Economic and social historians from around the world have been working together in thematic collaboratories, in order to collect and share their knowledge concerning the relevant indicators of economic performance and its causes. The collected data have been standardized, harmonized, and stored for future use. New indicators to study inequality have been developed. The datasets are accessible through the Clio Infra portal which also offers possibilities for visualization of the data. Clio Infra offers the opportunity to greatly enhance our understanding of the origins, causes and character of the process of global inequality.