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Why Do Women Co-Operate More in Women’s Groups?


  • Fearon, James D.
  • Humphreys, Macartan


A substantial amount of development programming assumes that women have preferences or aptitudes that are more conducive to economic development. For example, conditional cash transfer programmes commonly deliver funding to female household heads, and many microcredit schemes focus on women’s savings groups. This chapter examines a public goods game in northern Liberia. Women contributed substantially more to a small-scale development project when playing with other women than in mixed-gender groups, where they contributed at about the same levels as men. We try to explain this composition effect using a structural model, survey responses, and a second manipulation. Results suggest women in the all-women group put more weight on co-operation regardless of the value of the public good, the fear of discovery, or the desire to match others’ behaviour. We conjecture that players have stronger motivation to signal public-spiritedness when primed to consider themselves representatives of the women of the community.

Suggested Citation

  • Fearon, James D. & Humphreys, Macartan, 2018. "Why Do Women Co-Operate More in Women’s Groups?," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, pages 217-236.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:espost:191924

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Esther Duflo, 2012. "Women Empowerment and Economic Development," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 50(4), pages 1051-1079, December.
    2. Greig, Fiona & Bohnet, Iris, 2009. "Exploring gendered behavior in the field with experiments: Why public goods are provided by women in a Nairobi slum," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 70(1-2), pages 1-9, May.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:109:y:2015:i:03:p:450-469_00 is not listed on IDEAS
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    More about this item


    economic development; microcredit schemes; women’s savings groups; public goods; gender; Liberia;

    JEL classification:

    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • C11 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Bayesian Analysis: General
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments


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