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"A Measure of Legal Independence": The 1870 Married Women's Property Act and the Portfolio Allocations of British Wives

Mary Beth Combs
The Journal of Economic History
Vol. 65, No. 4 (Dec., 2005), pp. 1028-1057
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3874913
Page Count: 30
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"A Measure of Legal Independence": The 1870 Married Women's Property Act and the Portfolio Allocations of British Wives
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Abstract

I examine the portfolio allocations of women married in the years surrounding the 1870 Married Women's Property Act. The act, which gave women married after 1870 the right to own and control personal property, serves as a natural experiment to examine the extent to which individuals respond to changes in property law. I link wealth data to census information and find that, as a result of the act, women married after 1870 altered their portfolio allocations by shifting wealth-holding away from real property to personal property. The results indicate that the act greatly impacted the investment decisions of women.

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