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Domestic violence and women's autonomy in developing countries: theory and evidence


  • Mukesh Eswaran
  • Nisha Malhotra


This paper sets out a simple non-cooperative model of resource allocation within the household in developing countries that incorporates domestic violence as a vehicle for enhancing bargaining power. We demonstrate that the extent of domestic violence faced by women is not necessarily declining in their reservation utilities, or necessarily increasing in their spouses'. Using the National Family Health Survey data of India for 1998-99, we isolate the effect of domestic violence on female autonomy, taking into account the possible endogeneity of domestic violence through the choice of appropriate instruments. We provide some evidence for the evolutionary theory of domestic violence, which argues that such violence stems from the jealousy caused by paternity uncertainty in our evolutionary past. The findings have strong policy implications suggesting that it will take more than an improvement in women's employment options to address the problem of spousal violence.

Suggested Citation

  • Mukesh Eswaran & Nisha Malhotra, 2011. "Domestic violence and women's autonomy in developing countries: theory and evidence," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 44(4), pages 1222-1263, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:44:y:2011:i:4:p:1222-1263

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. James Markusen, 2005. "Modeling the Offshoring of White-Collar Services: From Comparative Advantage to the New Theories of Trade and FDI," NBER Working Papers 11827, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Biscourp, Pierre & Kramarz, Francis, 2007. "Employment, skill structure and international trade: Firm-level evidence for France," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 22-51, May.
    3. Megan MacGarvie, 2006. "Do Firms Learn from International Trade?," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(1), pages 46-60, February.
    4. Ronald W. Jones, 2000. "A Framework for Fragmentation," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 00-056/2, Tinbergen Institute.
    5. Steven J. Davis & John Haltiwanger, 1992. "Gross Job Creation, Gross Job Destruction, and Employment Reallocation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(3), pages 819-863.
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    Cited by:

    1. Rachel Heath & Seema Jayachandran, 2016. "The Causes and Consequences of Increased Female Education and Labor Force Participation in Developing Countries," Working Papers id:11434, eSocialSciences.
    2. Paul, Sohini, 2014. "Women labour force participation and domestic violence: Evidence from India," MPRA Paper 55311, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Heath, Rachel, 2014. "Women’s Access to Labor Market Opportunities, Control of Household Resources, and Domestic Violence: Evidence from Bangladesh," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 32-46.
    4. Sofia Amaral, 2015. "Do Improved Property Rights Decrease Violence Against Women in India?," Discussion Papers 15-10, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    5. Gina Cárdenas Varón & José Luis Polo Otero, 2014. "Ciclo intergeneracional de la violencia doméstica contra la mujer: Análisis para las regiones de Colombia," REVISTA DE ECONOMÍA DEL CARIBE 014767, UNIVERSIDAD DEL NORTE.
    6. Anderson, Siwan & Genicot, Garance, 2015. "Suicide and property rights in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 114(C), pages 64-78.
    7. repec:eee:wdevel:v:95:y:2017:i:c:p:211-230 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Seymour, Gregory & Peterman, Amber, 2017. "Understanding the measurement of women’s autonomy: Illustrations from Bangladesh and Ghana," IFPRI discussion papers 1656, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Olukorede Abiona & Martin Foureaux Koppensteiner, 2016. "The Impact of Household Shocks on Domestic Violence: Evidence from Tanzania," Discussion Papers in Economics 16/14, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
    10. Hidrobo, Melissa & Fernald, Lia, 2013. "Cash transfers and domestic violence," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 304-319.
    11. Sofia Amaral & Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay & Rudra Sensarma, 2015. "Public Work Programs and Gender-based Violence: The Case of NREGA in India," Discussion Papers 15-09, Department of Economics, University of Birmingham.
    12. Jean-Philippe Platteau & Guilia Camilotti & Emmanuelle Auriol, 2017. "Eradicating women-hurting customs: What role for social engineering?," WIDER Working Paper Series 145, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    13. Tranchant, Jean-Pierre & Mueller, Catherine, 2017. "Gendered Experience of Interpersonal Violence in Urban and Rural Spaces: The Case of Ghana," MPRA Paper 79533, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Selim Gulesci, 2017. "Forced migration and attitudes towards domestic violence: Evidence from Turkey," WIDER Working Paper Series 110, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    15. Menon, Seetha, 2014. "Unfinished lives: the effect of domestic violence on neonatal & infant mortality," ISER Working Paper Series 2014-27, Institute for Social and Economic Research.
    16. La Mattina, Giulia, 2017. "Civil conflict, domestic violence and intra-household bargaining in post-genocide Rwanda," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 124(C), pages 168-198.
    17. repec:ebl:ecbull:eb-17-00193 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Neetu A. John & Kirsten Stoebenau & Samantha Ritter & Jeffrey Edmeades & Nikola Balvin & UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti, 2017. "Gender Socialization during Adolescence in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: Conceptualization, influences and outcomes," Papers indipa885, Innocenti Discussion Papers.
    19. Heath, Rachel, 2012. "Women's access to labor market opportunities, control of household resources, and domestic violence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6149, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making


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