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Incomplete transitions to clean household energy reinforce gender inequality by lowering women’s respiratory health and household labour productivity


  • Maji, Poushali
  • Mehrabi, Zia
  • Kandlikar, Milind


India has over 800 million people without access to clean cooking fuel. A well-known, but under-researched aspect of poor access to clean energy is its cost on woman’s health and well being. Here we use the nationally representative India Human Development Survey, tracking the same set of households from 2005 to 2011, to quantify the gender-related health and time-saving benefits of a shift in a household’s fuel and stove use patterns. We show that across India, the predicted probabilities of cough in non-smoking women are 30%-60% higher than non-smoking men in solid-fuel using households, but that a complete transition from solid fuels to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for cooking reduces this gap to only 3%. Exclusive use of LPG is also accompanied by reduced cooking time (~37 min) and less time for collecting fuels (~24 min) in rural households, together saving up to an hour in demands on women’s labour each day. We also find electrification reduces the probability of developing cough by about 35–50% in non-smoking men and women across both rural and urban households, and help close the gap between men and women in rural households. Despite clean energy being a long-held policy goal of Indian governments, between 2005 and 2011, only 9% of households made a complete transition to clean energy, and 16.4% made a partial transition. We suggest that government efforts in India, and elsewhere, should focus on improving affordability, supply and reliability of clean fuels in enabling a complete household energy transition and help address key issues in gender inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Maji, Poushali & Mehrabi, Zia & Kandlikar, Milind, 2021. "Incomplete transitions to clean household energy reinforce gender inequality by lowering women’s respiratory health and household labour productivity," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 139(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:139:y:2021:i:c:s0305750x20304368
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2020.105309

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    1. Chen, Qiu & Huang, Jikun & Mirzabaev, Alisher, 2022. "Does fuel price subsidy work? Household energy transition under imperfect labor market in rural China," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C).
    2. Ma, Wanglin & Vatsa, Puneet & Zheng, Hongyun, 2022. "Cooking fuel choices and subjective well-being in rural China: Implications for a complete energy transition," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 165(C).
    3. Afridi, Farzana & Debnath, Sisir & Dinkelman, Taryn & Sareen, Komal, 2022. "Time for Clean Energy? Cleaner Fuels and Women's Time in Home Production," IZA Discussion Papers 15120, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Ma, Wanglin & Ma, Wanglin & Zheng, Hongyun, 2021. "Impacts of Cooking Fuel Choices on Subjective Well-Being: Insights from Rural China," 2021 Conference, August 17-31, 2021, Virtual 315149, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    5. Zhang, Lingyue & Li, Hui & Chen, Tianqi & Liao, Hua, 2022. "Health effects of cooking fuel transition: A dynamic perspective," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 251(C).
    6. Wu, Shu, 2022. "Household fuel switching and the elderly's health: Evidence from rural China," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 240(C).

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