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Why are educated women less likely to be employed in India? Testing competing hypotheses

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  • Maitreyi Bordia Das, and Sonalde Desai

Abstract

In this paper we use the Indian National Sample Survey data for 1993-94 to examine the relationship between women's education and labor force participation. While it has been recognized in the literature that education is associated with lower labor force participation for women in South Asia, the reasons behind this association are less well understood. Two competing theories potentially explain this phenomenon - one based on cultural factors and the other on labor market options. Cultural arguments suggest that women's withdrawal from labor force is associated with improvement in the social status of the family. Higher status families choose to educate their daughters, but at the same time, restrict their independence through labor force withdrawal. In contrast, structural arguments suggest that educated women - like educated men - prefer white collar jobs. Since formal sector jobs only comprise 7 percent of all jobs, opportunities for these desirable jobs is limited, resulting in labor force withdrawal of women. We propose empirical tests to examine whether job availability or patriarchal controls play an important role in shaping this relationship. Our results suggest that cultural factors appear to be less important than lack of employment opportunities.

Suggested Citation

  • Maitreyi Bordia Das, and Sonalde Desai, 2003. "Why are educated women less likely to be employed in India? Testing competing hypotheses," Social Protection and Labor Policy and Technical Notes 27868, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:hdnspu:27868
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Marcel Fafchamps & Agnes R. Quisumbing, 1999. "Human Capital, Productivity, and Labor Allocation in Rural Pakistan," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, pages 369-406.
    2. David Lam & Suzanne Duryea, 1999. "Effects of Schooling on Fertility, Labor Supply, and Investments in Children, with Evidence from Brazil," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(1), pages 160-192.
    3. Kingdom, G.G. & Unni, J., 1998. "Education and Women's Labour Market Outcomes in India: An Analysis Using NSS Household Data," Economics Series Working Papers 99201, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
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    Cited by:

    1. Sunny Jose, 2009. "Women, Paid Work and Empowerment in India: A Review of Evidence and Issues," Working Papers id:2064, eSocialSciences.
    2. Bhalotra, Sonia, 2010. "Fatal fluctuations? Cyclicality in infant mortality in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, pages 7-19.
    3. Stephan Klasen & Janneke Pieters, 2015. "What Explains the Stagnation of Female Labor Force Participation in Urban India?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, pages 449-478.
    4. Maitreyi Bordia Das & Soumya Kapoor Mehta, 2012. "Poverty and Social Exclusion in India," World Bank Other Operational Studies 26338, The World Bank.
    5. World Bank, 2014. "India : Women, Work and Employment," World Bank Other Operational Studies 18737, The World Bank.
    6. World Bank, 2008. "Whispers to Voices," World Bank Other Operational Studies 26334, The World Bank.
    7. Pieters, Janneke & Klasen, Stephan, 2011. "Drivers of female labour force participation in urban India during India's Economic Boom," Proceedings of the German Development Economics Conference, Berlin 2011 65, Verein für Socialpolitik, Research Committee Development Economics.
    8. Neetha N, 2013. "Inequalities Reinforced? Social Groups, Gender and Employment," Working Papers id:5274, eSocialSciences.
    9. Susmita Dasgupta & Benoit Laplante & Siobhan Murray & David Wheeler, 2009. "Climate Change and the Future Impacts of Storm-Surge Disasters in Developing Countries," Working Papers 182, Center for Global Development.
    10. Klasen, Stephan & Pieters, Janneke, 2012. "Push or Pull? Drivers of Female Labor Force Participation during India's Economic Boom," IZA Discussion Papers 6395, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Sabarwal, Shwetlena & Sinha, Nistha & Buvinic, Mayra, 2010. "How do women weather economic shocks ? a review of the evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5496, The World Bank.

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