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Women's Employment in Developing Economies
Friday, Jan. 7, 2022
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)
American Economic Association
Access to Finance, Empowerment and Women’s Employment: Evidence from Rural India
Across the developing world, women’s groups provide access to low-cost credit and savings with the dual intent of financial inclusion and women’s empowerment. I exploit the randomized roll-out of a government-sponsored women’s self-help group program in the state of Bihar to evaluate its impact on women’s labor supply. I find that the program had mixed effects across caste categories. Women from more privileged caste groups increased their labor supply, while both women and men from disadvantaged caste groups decreased their labor supply. The decline in labor supply among disadvantaged households is driven by reduced participation in agricultural wage labor, and is associated with an increase in agricultural labor wage rates. For women from more vulnerable households, these results suggest that better access to finance reduces the need to sell labor to smooth income; while, for women from privileged households, they suggest that better access to finance allows them to increase their labor force participation in more ‘suitable’ occupations.
Electricity and Female Employment: Evidence from Tajikistan's Winter Energy Crisis
It is commonly believed that the introduction of home electricity can increase female employment though a so-called "home productivity effect" that releases women from home production. But the empirical evidence for this relationship so far has been mixed. In this paper, I study how Tajiki women responded to the disruption of the Tajik-Uzbek electricity trade in 2009, which triggered a five-year-long "winter energy crisis" that severely limited households’ electricity access and threw large parts of Tajikistan into relative darkness for extended parts of the year. I find that exposure to electricity restrictions led to a reduction in female labor market participation for the duration of the energy crisis. The effect does not appear for male respondents, and is accompanied by decreasing ownership of electrical household appliances. The findings support a positive relationship between access to home electricity and female employment that is mediated by home production technology. In a broader sense, these results highlight the role of public infrastructure in economic development as a contributor to increased household income and the economic empowerment of women.
Savings Groups, Risk Coping and Financial Inclusion in Rural Areas
Savings groups provide access to financial services to households who are underserved by formal financial institutions and microfinance lenders. Using a clustered randomized control trial, we study the impact of these groups on poverty, risk coping, and sustained access to credit from other lenders in rural Peru. Two years after the introduction of saving groups, treated households exhibit reduced vulnerability to idiosyncratic shocks and greater investments in housing quality, especially in poorer villages. The treatment also leads to increased specialization in agricultural activities in poorer villages, which may be explained by reduced exposure to risks. Our study also provides novel evidence on savings groups' longer-term effects on access to loans from other lenders. Relative to the control, the treated group shows reduced access to formal loans and increased reliance on microfinance loans, which goes against the graduation hypothesis. The negative effect on access to formal loans is driven by villages with higher poverty levels and lower pre-treatment access to formal credit.
Using Bank Savings Product Design for Empowering Women and Agricultural Development
This study examines whether the random allocation of single and joint saving accounts to 1200 agricultural households in rural Ethiopia is associated with changes in decision-making authority and control over resources that ultimately lead to changes in labor effort, schooling allocations, income, consumption, agricultural investments, and crop output. Administrative bank data shows an overall take-up rate of 57 percent, while the share of ‘active users’ reaches 40 percent with no statistical differences between the single and joint saving accounts. Two years following the intervention, we find sizable and statistically significant effects on farm labor only among household members assigned to the joint account group. Importantly, these positive labor responses are mainly driven by women and children aged 6-14, which suggests that ownership of saving accounts by the spouses of heads of households triggers important child labor responses. Likewise, the analysis of schooling outcomes shows statistically significant gains for school-aged girls from households randomly assigned to the joint account group. Consistent with posited channels of intrahousehold bargaining models, one observes that women in the joint saving group show statistically significantly higher autonomy and control of saving resources and higher gains in financial and labor empowerment relative to women in the single account saving group. Furthermore, higher household labor effort is not accompanied by higher agricultural crop output, but rather by significant impacts on patterns of livestock decumulation for households assigned to the joint-account treatment group. We find some evidence of “lumpy” agricultural purchases of inputs, equipment, and tools. Importantly, household demand for hired labor shows negative mean impacts, which suggests substitution effects between household farm labor and outside hired labor to some extent. Furthermore, although we observe shifts in the composition of expenses by treatment status, we find negligible and imprecisely measured mean impacts on household income and food consumption.
Inspiration and Information: The Role of Role Models
Gender disparities in STEM fields participation are a major cause of concern for policymakers around the world. In addition to talent misallocation, low female enrollment rates in STEM careers contribute to gender-based inequalities in earnings and wealth, given the higher average level of earnings in these fields. This paper studies the effects of exposure to role models on female preferences for STEM majors. We conduct a randomized control trial where female senior students currently enrolled in engineering programs at an elite private university in Peru give talks about their experiences at randomly selected high schools. We find that exposure to this treatment increases high ability female students' preferences for engineering programs by 14 percentage points. The effect is only statistically significant for the subgroup of female students with baseline math scores in the top 25 percentile, and who reside close to the city where the role models' university is located. We also find positive but smaller effects on “low ability” male students. In a context where females are discouraged from enrolling in STEM fields, our results have important policy implications.
O1 - Economic Development