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The Gender of Debt and Credit: Insights from Rural Tamil Nadu

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  • Isabelle Guérin

    (IRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, CESSMA UMRD 245 - Centre d'études en sciences sociales sur les mondes africains, américains et asiatiques - IRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement - Inalco - Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales - UP - Université de Paris, Inalco - Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales, IFP - Institut Français de Pondichéry - MEAE - Ministère de l'Europe et des Affaires étrangères - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Christophe Jalil Nordman

    (IRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, LEDA-DIAL - Développement, Institutions et Modialisation - LEDa - Laboratoire d'Economie de Dauphine - IRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement - Université Paris Dauphine-PSL - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, DIG CANCER - Dynamique de l'information génétique : bases fondamentales et cancer - SU - Sorbonne Université - Institut Curie [Paris] - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, IZA - Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit - Institute of Labor Economics, IFP - Institut Français de Pondichéry - MEAE - Ministère de l'Europe et des Affaires étrangères - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Elena Reboul

    (CESSMA UMRD 245 - Centre d'études en sciences sociales sur les mondes africains, américains et asiatiques - IRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement - Inalco - Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales - UP - Université de Paris, IRD - Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Inalco - Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales)

Abstract

The champions of financial inclusion regret women's lack of access to credit, while critics of financialization, by contrast, claim that women have become overly indebted. But little is actually known about women's debt/credit in quantitative terms, mostly due to a lack of data. This descriptive paper uses first-hand survey data from southern India disaggregated by sex in order to analyze the gender of debt and its interplay with caste and poverty, based on descriptive statistics and econometric results. We show that women are heavily indebted, first and foremost to informal sources, alongside microcredit. While men are much higher earners, they borrow much less in relative terms. Furthermore, women prominently - and markedly more so than men - borrow in order to make ends meet; productive investment largely remains a male practice. Lastly, women of the poorest and lowest-caste households have the heaviest borrowing responsibilities, managing the highest proportions of household debt. On a theoretical level, these results highlight the gendered earmarking of debt and credit: male and female debts/credits do not have the same meanings and uses. They also confirm the gendered dimension of behavior, in as much as women's behavior is constrained by family affiliation, poverty level and caste, all of which affects men much less. Last, in terms of policy implications, these results put into question the specific targeting of women by microcredit policies, likely to strengthen the association between debt and poverty for women, and in particular to exacerbate female responsibilities for managing scarcity.

Suggested Citation

  • Isabelle Guérin & Christophe Jalil Nordman & Elena Reboul, 2020. "The Gender of Debt and Credit: Insights from Rural Tamil Nadu," Working Papers hal-03134236, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:hal-03134236
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03134236
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Gender; Debt; Credit; India; Tamil Nadu;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • G51 - Financial Economics - - Household Finance - - - Household Savings, Borrowing, Debt, and Wealth
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance

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