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How Entrenched Are Gender Norms in Developing Countries?

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Pennsylvania Convention Center, 107-B
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Raquel Fernandez, New York University

Reshaping Gender Attitudes in India

Diva Dhar
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Tarun Jain
Indian School of Business
Seema Jayachandran
Northwestern University


This paper studies the impacts of a school-based program aimed at eliminating adolescents' gender-discriminatory attitudes in Haryana, India. For two and a half school years, staff members of a human rights nonprofit led biweekly or monthly classroom discussions about gender equality in 150 government secondary schools. The intervention schools were randomly selected from a sample of 314 schools; the remaining 164 schools serve as a comparison group. We examine whether the intervention changed gender attitudes as well as behaviors that depend on gender attitudes such as the amount of time boys spend on household chores and the amount of time girls spend studying.

Norms Formation: Gold Rush and Women's Roles

Sandra Aguilar-Gomez
Columbia University
Anja Tolonen
Columbia University


We explore the expansion of gold mining in California in the late 19th century to understand how marriage markets and gender norms are affected by the relative scarcity of women, in the short and long term. We use a geographic difference-in-difference methodology, exploiting the location and discovery of the gold deposits and its influence on sex ratios. For the 1880’s, we find significant differences across mining and mining counties in the four states. Interestingly, women are less likely to work, and in particular they seem to be able to switch to being housewife or to the service industry when living in mining counties. We also find an increase in their likelihood of being married, and of "marrying up". Furthermore, in a later stage of the analysis we will explore to what extent these new economic and cultural gender norms---female labor market participation, their participation in higher prestige areas, outsourcing of household work, and divorce rates---persist until today in these states.

Domestic Violence and Childhood Exposure to Armed Conflict: Attitudes and Experiences

Giulia La Mattina
University of South Florida
Olga Shemyakina
Georgia Institute of Technology


We examine the effect of exposure to armed conflict in childhood and youth on women and men’s attitudes toward domestic violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, our study identifies age periods during childhood that are most critical for the formation of beliefs on domestic violence as well as mechanisms underlying these effects.
We merge individual data on the attitudes of 438,000 women and 172,000 men who were interviewed between 2001 and 2015 in 20 Sub-Saharan African countries with geo-coded data on all armed conflicts in the region between 1946 and 2006. Our identification strategy exploits geographic variation in conflict intensity across sub-national regions and temporal variation in exposure to conflict events across birth cohorts.
Men and women who were exposed to conflict between ages 6 and 10 appear to be the most vulnerable to internalizing surrounding violence and expressing more acceptance of domestic violence. Women who experienced conflict during this age were also more likely to report being a victim of domestic violence. We explore several mechanisms and observe that reduced educational attainment is one plausible channel through which childhood exposure to conflict affected women’s acceptance of domestic violence later in life.

Maternal Mortality Risk and the Gender Gap in Desired Fertility: An Experimental Study on Learning and Communication Inside the Household

Nava Ashraf
London School of Economics and Political Science
Erica Field
Duke University
Alessandra Voena
University of Chicago
Roberta Ziparo
Aix-Marseille University


There is strong evidence that high fertility rates are due, in part, to misaligned preferences between husbands and wives, with male preference for a higher number of children resulting in lower contraceptive adoption. While such a gap may originate because women directly bear the cost of childbearing, there is also an information gap between men and women on maternal risk which is borne of traditional gender roles. Using a randomised controlled trial (RCT) design, the study targets information on maternal mortality to different members of households to measure the extent to which learning about maternal health risk affects both spouses’ beliefs about maternal mortality, household demand for family planning, and, ultimately, realised fertility.
James Fenske
University of Warwick
Raquel Fernandez
New York University
Micaela Sviatschi
Princeton University
Rachel Heath
University of Washington
JEL Classifications
  • J1 - Demographic Economics
  • O1 - Economic Development