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Women's Employment in Developing Economies
Friday, Jan. 7, 2022
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (EST)
American Economic Association
Chair: Mesay Gebresilasse,
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 Reduce Vulnerability, but Have Mixed Effects on Financial Inclusion
This paper evaluates the impact of the introduction of savings groups on poverty, vulnerability, and financial inclusion outcomes in rural Peru. Using a cluster randomized control trial and relying on both survey and administrative records, we investigate the impact of savings groups over a two year period. We find that savings groups channel expensive investments such as housing improvements and reduce households' vulnerability to idiosyncratic shocks, particularly among households in poorer districts. The treatment also induces changes in households' labor allocation choices: access to savings groups increases female labor market participation and, in poorer areas, it fosters greater specialization in agricultural activities. Access to savings groups also leads to a four-percentage point increase in access to credit among women, mainly driven by access to the group's loans. However, the introduction of savings groups has no impact on the likelihood to use formal financial services. On the contrary, it discourages access to loans from formal financial institutions and microfinance lenders among the unbanked.
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.
Women in Engineering: The Role of Role Models
Gender disparities in STEM field participation are a major cause of concern for policymakers around the world. Given the higher average level of earnings of STEM graduates, low enrollment rates of women in these fields contribute to gender-based inequalities in earnings and wealth. This paper studies the effects of exposure to role models on female preferences for STEM fields. We conduct a randomized control trial where female 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 preferences for engineering programs in 14 percentage points, with the strongest effects for “high ability” female students, and students attending schools within close proximity to the private university. 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