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Overcoming Barriers to Women’s Employment and Enterprise Development in Developing Countries

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 6, 2023 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM (CST)

New Orleans Marriott, Galerie 1
Hosted By: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
  • Chair: Nicholas Magnan, University of Georgia

Can Mobile Technology Improve Female Entrepreneurship? Evidence from Nepal

Conner Mullally
University of Florida
Sarah Janzen
University of Illinois
Nicholas Magnan
University of Georgia
Shruti Sharma
US Bank
Bhola Shrestha
Heifer International


Gender norms may constrain the ability of women to develop their entrepreneurial skills, particularly
in rural areas. By bringing entrepreneurial training to women rather than requiring extended time away
from home, mobile technology could open doors that would otherwise be closed. We randomly
selected Nepali women nominated by their local goat cooperatives to be trained as veterinary service
providers known as community animal health workers. Half of the selected candidates were randomly
assigned to a traditional training course requiring 35 consecutive days away from home, and half were
assigned to a hybrid distance learning course requiring two shorter stays plus a tablet-based curriculum
to be completed at home. Distance learning has a larger effect than traditional training on boosting the
number of livestock responsibilities women carry out at home, while also raising aspirations. Both
training types increase women’s control over income. Heterogeneous treatment effects indicate that
distance learning made it easier for women with infant children to complete training. We find evidence
suggesting that traditional trainees would have performed better with distance training, and that lowerperforming trainees are more likely to select into distance training than traditional training.

Informational Barriers to Female Employment in India: Experimental Evidence from Vocational Training Students

S. Anukriti
World Bank
Catalina Herrera-Almanza
University of Illinois
Sophie Ochmann
University of Georgia


India has an exceptionally low female labor force participation rate despite substantial improvements
in female educational attainment in recent decades. This issue is concerning as female labor force
participation can empower women and lead to economic growth. One of the key barriers to women’s
labor market engagement in India is the lack of information about the job search process, which is
particularly critical during the school-work transition period. We utilize a randomized control trial to
examine the effects of providing access to a mobile-phone app that aims to reduce informational
barriers among female vocational training graduates in India. The baseline survey of this ongoing
experiment includes a sample of approximately 4000 young women who are either enrolled in or have
recently graduated from vocational training institutes in the Delhi National Capital Region. Utilizing
the baseline data, we will analyze the extent to which informational barriers affect women’s labor
market aspirations (measured as the intention to work), beliefs about getting a preferred job, and
reservation wages. Additionally, we will analyze to what extent social norms and young women’s
social networks can mediate the effect of informational barriers on their job aspirations. For instance,
the lack of information about job search may be more salient for young female trainees who are
relatively socially isolated and come from more conservative backgrounds. This paper and the results
of the experiment will inform policymakers on how to improve the labor market aspirations and career
trajectories of young female vocational training graduates in India. This is a key policy issue as the
COVID-19 pandemic has likely further widened the pre-existing gender gaps in employment

The Impact of Social versus Individual Identity-Based Motivation on the Replication of Village Savings and Loans Groups in Malawi

Rachel Ramey
University of Georgia
Sundar Bharadwaj
University of Georgia
Ellen McCullough
University of Georgia


Nonprofit organizations and social enterprises have spent decades investing in initiatives to increase
financial access to reduce global poverty. A popular approach is informal savings groups, which
require extensive monetary and human resources to form. The desire to reach as many communities as
possible while responsibly spending donor funds has motivated nonprofit organizations to seek
economical ways to increase savings group formation. In this study we examine one approach to scale
savings group formation using the marketing approaches of seeding and word of mouth. Specifically,
we examine the role of self-replication— where members of an existing savings group form a new
savings group in their community without reliance on the nonprofit’s resources (i.e., through word of
mouth). We conduct a large-scale randomized controlled trial (RCT) of a replication training
intervention with 1120 Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) groups in Malawi. These
savings groups are comprised of 15-30 low-income members, mostly women, who are trained to
collectively save money. This research contributes to the marketing literature by examining identity-based motivation as a non-monetary incentive in a field setting over a long time period.

Pay It Forward: A Mechanism for Achieving Scale in Anti-poverty Programs

Sarah Janzen
University of Illinois
Nicholas Magnan
University of Georgia
Sudhindra Sharma
Interdisciplinary Analysts
William Thompson


A major question surrounding anti-poverty programs is whether they can be cost effectively scaled.
We evaluate the impacts of a livestock (goats) transfer and training program targeting poor, rural
women in Nepal using a randomized control trial. The program is designed to achieve scale through a
``pay it forward'' mechanism where initial beneficiaries pass on benefits (livestock and training) to
others in their community. The study includes three treatment arms: livestock transfer and training,
livestock transfer and training with the pay it forward mechanism, and training with the pay it forward
mechanism (but no livestock). The study also includes two distinct respondent pools: directly targeted
households and others in the community. After 2.5 and 3.5 years in the program, targeted households
have larger herds, higher goat profits, better goat-rearing practices, and more control over goat
production. They also have more savings and less debt. These impacts are similar with or without the
actual transfer of livestock. When the pay it forward mechanism is included, others in the community
experience similar benefits as targeted households. Without it, others in the community are less
affected by the program. We do not find significant impacts on higher-level welfare outcomes such as
household income, asset accumulation, psychological well-being, and food consumption.
JEL Classifications
  • A1 - General Economics