Veiling and Economic Integration of Muslim Women in France

Abstract: The economic implications of policies limiting the wearing of the Islamic veil for Muslim women have largely been overlooked in many Western countries. This paper investigates the relationship between veiling behavior and economic participation using the largest sample of Muslim women in France. Firstly, we present new descriptive evidence about Muslim women in France, demonstrating a significant negative relationship between veiling and economic participation. Secondly, to disentangle the various motivations behind the joint decision to veil and to be economically active, we develop and estimate a discrete-choice model of veiling and labor force participation. Our findings indicate that veiled women are less economically active not only due to religious preferences but also because veiling substantially reduces their economic opportunities. Additionally, our results emphasize the significance of personal religious motives in the decision to veil, rather than community-based religious pressure. Consequently, our findings call into question the rhetoric used to justify policies that restrict the wearing of religious symbols in France.