Monday, April 22, 2013

Gender Disparities in Farm Transmission

The North Dakota Law Review has jut published an article called "Rural Inheritance:  Gender Disparities in Farm Transmission."  This is a thoughtful gendered critique of why sons rather than daughters tend to inherit family farms.  It concludes that families and rural society groom boys to farm, but do not cultivate this interest in nor pass the know-how on to girls in the same way.  Gender stereotyping and its consequences remain the culprit, even in the face of changes to the Uniform Probate Code that made it gender-neutral.

The author of "Rural Inheritance" is Hannah Alsgaard, a 2012 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall), who is currently clerking for Judge Roberto Lange of the District of South Dakota, in Pierre.  Ms. Alsgaard grew up in Yankton, South Dakota, so she knows well the milieu of which she writes.  The abstract for the article follows, and you can download the full text here:
Farmers are farmers’ sons. Notable in our modern day, heralded by many as a gender-neutral society, it is farmers’ sons, not farmers’ daughters, who become farmers and take over ownership and management of the family farm. It has long been true that agricultural knowledge and land have passed through generations of men. In contrast, daughters, even today, are neither considered to be farmers nor likely to inherit family farmland. This Article begins by chronicling how farmland is inherited (by sons) then discusses why the pattern of excluding women continues. There have been substantial legal changes in the United States impacting land inheritance and ownership, culminating with the Equal Protection Clause’s extension to gender discrimination and the gender-neutral Uniform Probate Code. Social changes have also been tremendous, but even legal and social developments have been unable to correct gender disparity in farm inheritance. After exploring many legal and social factors, I conclude it is grooming – at the familial, governmental, and social levels – that plays the most vital role in training future farmers and mainly accounts for the gender difference in farm inheritance and the farming profession. This Article ultimately proposes girls must be groomed to farm in order to rectify the vast gender disparity in the ownership and management of family farms. A three pronged approach will be needed to remedy the situation, specifically: changing the role of lawyers, educating girls and women, and educating testators. What remains most important is that daughters are given the same opportunity as sons to farm based on merit, rather than being excluded from farm inheritance merely because of their gender.
Cross-posted to the Ag Law Blog.

1 comment:

Patricija said...

Throughout my feminist musings, I always come back to certain question: how much does physical strength and biology interact with gender differences. I think this has been particularly potent in farming. However, much like the military, the advances in technology lesson the importance of brute strength and open the door for women to be integrated.

I also think there remains a strong tie between class and manual labor - and this is particularly true with women. Wealth afforded the luxury to keep women from enduring hard labor. This trend has only intensified in the urban economy, where "mental" work is what is most valued, both culturally and monetarily.