The Puzzling Decline in Rural Women’s Labor Force Participation in India: A Reexamination
Between 2004/2005 and 2009/2010 there was a sharp fall in female labor force participation (LFP) in rural India. Why did this occur? We look at the four standard explanations: that more women in rural areas are now pursuing higher education and are therefore not available for work (education effect), that household incomes are rising quickly enough that there is a tendency for women to withdraw from the labor force to attend to domestic duties (income effect), that employment opportunities for women are decreasing, and that social and cultural factors may be interacting with these three factors and amplifying their effects. Our findings suggest that the decline in rural women’s LFP could potentially be due to an income effect and partly due to an education effect. We find no evidence of changes in employment opportunities or of social and cultural interaction effects that could explain the decline in rural female LFP.
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