Women, Insurance Capital, and Economic Development in Rural India
In this paper, longitudinal data from a national probability sample of rural households in India are used to assess how the traditional migration of women across households via marriage, by contributing to consumption smoothing, augments the returns to women as human capital and how these returns are affected by economic development propelled by agricultural technical progress. The estimates confirm earlier findings based on more geographically confined data from India that interhousehold financial transfers play a small but significant role in contributing to consumption-smoothing. Such transfers appear to be more responsive to a household's fluctuations in earnings than are loans, and this responsiveness is significantly augmented in households with more informal connections to other households that arise due to the marriages of sons, who stay in the parental household, and daughters who migrate. The estimates also suggest that technical change, presumably because of its impact on the returns to experience, on earnings levels, and on risk assessment, represents a threat to the traditional household and in particular to marriage-based risk pooling. The results indicate that the transformation of traditional agriculture through technological change thus extends beyond agricultural practices to the relationships among households and also within households, and does not necessarily lead to great equality by sex in the intrahousehold distribution of resources despite the evident normality of equality in intrahousehold resources.
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