South Asia

  • Microfinance and Poverty: Using Panel Data from Bangladesh

    Khandker (2005)

    Original Abstract:

    Microfinance supports mainly informal activities that often have a low return and low market demand. It may therefore be hypothesized that the aggregate poverty impact of microfinance is modest or even nonexistent. If true, the poverty impact of microfinance observed at the participant level represents either income redistribution or short-run income generation from the microfinance intervention. This article examines the effects of microfinance on poverty reduction at both the participant and the aggregate levels using panel data from Bangladesh. The results suggest that access to microfinance contributes to poverty reduction, especially for female participants, and to overall poverty reduction at the village level. Microfinance thus helps not only poor participants but also the local economy.

    Intervention settings: Rural.

    Intervention description: Group-liability credit for income-generation activity. Some loans for consumption and housing.

    Methodology: Ex-post evaluation with panel data of clients and non-clients.

    Sample: Mainly women; very poor and poor.

    Findings: Credit led to much higher poverty reduction among women clients' HHs than among men's. Slightly higher impact on HHs in exterme poverty, than those in moderate poverty. MF accounts for more than half of the 3% decline in poverty among clients. Female borrowing has a positive effect on HH food consumption (male borrowing has no effect).

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  • Selling Formal Insurance to the Informally Insured

    Mobarak and Rosezweig (2012)

    Original Abstract:

    Unpredictable rainfall is an important risk for agricultural activity, and farmers in developing countries often receive incomplete insurance from informal risk-sharing networks. We study the demand for, and effects of, offering formal index-based rainfall insurance through a randomized experiment in an environment where the informal risk sharing network can be readily identified and richly characterized: sub-castes in rural India. A model allowing for both idiosyncratic and aggregate risk shows that informal networks lower the demand for formal insurance only if the network indemnifies against aggregate risk, but not if its primary role is to insure against farmer-specific losses. When formal insurance carries basis risk (mismatches between payouts and actual losses due to the remote location of the rainfall gauge), informal risk sharing that covers idiosyncratic losses enhance the benefits of index insurance. Formal index insurance enables households to take more risk even in the presence of informal insurance. We find substantial empirical support of these nuanced predictions of the model by conducting the experiment (randomizing both index insurance offers, and the locations of rainfall gauges) on castes for whom we have a rich history of group responsiveness to household and aggregate rainfall shocks.

    Intervention settings: Rural: Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

    Intervention description: Rainfall insurance offered to farmers at actuarially fair or discounted prices.

    Methodology: RCT.

    Sample: Cultivator HH from 42 villages randomly selected for a large previous rural survey. Gender of farmers not specified but assumed to include females.

    Findings: Take up rate very low (about 40% overall). However, additional follow-up data collected in Tamil Nadu indicate that households offered rainfall insurance at discounted prices tended to plant more higher yielding and less drought-resistant varieties.

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  • Do Women's Land Rights Promote Empowerment and Child Health in Nepal?

    Allendorf (2007)

    Original Abstract:

    Women's land rights are increasingly put forth as a means to promote development by empowering women and increasing productivity and welfare. However, little empirical research has evaluated these claims. I use the 2001 Nepal Demographic and Health Survey to explore whether women's land rights empower women and benefit young children's health. Regression models provide evidence that land rights empower women by increasing their control over household decision making. Regression models using nutritional indicators also support the hypothesis that women's land rights benefit children's health. Children of mothers who own land are significantly less likely to be severely underweight or stunted.

    Intervention settings:

    Intervention description: Land titling.

    Methodology: Logit models for empowerment measure and decision-making measure with 2001 DHS data.

    Sample: 4,884 women.

    Findings: Women who own land more likely to have final word in household decision-making. Inverse relationship between women's land rights and children's malnutrition, a relationship attributed primarily to the additional income and resources that women's ownership of land brings, rather than the empowering effect of land ownership.

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  • Failure vs. Displacement: Why an Innovative Anti-Poverty Program Showed No Net Impact

    Morduch et al (2012)

    Original Abstract:

    We present results from a randomized trial of an innovative anti-poverty program in India. Instead of a safety net, the program provides "ultra-poor" households with inputs to create a new livelihood and attain economic independence. We find no statistically significant evidence of lasting net impact on consumption, income or asset accumulation. The main impact was the re-optimization of time use: sharp gains in income from the new livelihood were fully offset by lower earnings from wage labor. The result highlights how the existence of alternative economic options shapes net impacts and external validity.

    Intervention settings: Rural.

    Intervention description: Livestock asset ($140). Asset specific training.

    Methodology:

    Sample: Women.

    Findings: 325% more time spent tending to animals relative to baseline wage labor: 22%. No impact on earnings. No impact on per capita expenditure. Less time in wage labor (1 hours per day).

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  • Joint Titling: A Win-Win Policy? Gender and Property Rights in Urban Informal Settlements in Chandigarh, India

    Datta (2006)

    Original Abstract:

    This article extends the debate on gender and property rights that has previously focused on agricultural land in rural areas to housing in urban areas. Specifically, it explores the impact of joint titling of houses on women's empowerment in urban informal settlements in Chandigarh, India. Property rights increase women's participation in decision making, access to knowledge and information about public matters, sense of security, self-esteem, and the respect that they receive from their spouses. Women display a higher attachment to their houses than men, especially after getting joint titles, because houses play a valuable role in fulfilling women's practical and strategic gender needs. This increased attachment to the house helps reduce property turnover in regularized settlements, hence assisting the government in attaining its goals and making joint titling a win-win policy.

    Intervention settings:

    Intervention description: Land titling.

    Methodology: Interviews, focus groups, simple logit regressions.

    Sample: 200 individuals (55% women).

    Findings: Jointly owned land increased various measures of autonomy for poor urban women, including: their participation in household decision-making, access to information about financial matters, self-esteem and respect they received from their husbands.

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  • Do Basic Savings Accounts Help the Poor to Save? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Nepal

    Prina (2012)

    Original Abstract:

    Recent studies have shown that the majority of the poor lack access to formal banking services of any kind (Banerjee and Duflo (2007), Collins et al. (2009)) and have emphasized the importance of enabling savings. A simple savings account was randomly offered to poor female household heads through local bank-branches in 17 slums in Nepal. 81% of the individuals offered the account took it up and 78% used it actively. Account holders made on average one deposit per week, saving about 9% of their weekly income and, within the first four months of opening the account made one withdrawal half the size of their weekly income. Access to the savings account increased monetary assets by 40% without causing any crowding out in other kind of assets. If anything, being offered the account had a positive and significant impact on ROSCA's contributions and overall value of animal stock.

    Intervention settings: Peri-urban: Pokhara.

    Intervention description: Flexible savings accounts were provided with no opening, deposit or withdrawal fees to female-headed households.

    Methodology: RCT.

    Sample: Female-headed households in 19 slums.

    Findings: Total household assets increased in the treatment group (including an increase of 50% in monetary assets) after one year, with larger effects observed in lower and middle pre-intervention asset groups.

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  • Women's Inheritance Rights and Intergenerational Transmission of Resources in India

    Deininger et al. (2012)

    Original Abstract:

    We use inheritance patterns over three generations of individuals to assess the impact of changes in the Hindu Succession Act that grant daughters equal coparcenary birth rights in joint family property that were denied to daughters in the past. We show that the amendment significantly increased daughters' likelihood to inherit land, but that even after the amendment, substantial bias persists. Our results also indicate a robust increase in educational attainment of daughters, suggesting an alternative channel of wealth transfer.

    Intervention settings:

    Intervention description: Land titling.

    Methodology: Fixed effects model using 2006 Rural Economic and Demographic Survey.

    Sample:

    Findings: A legal reform giving daughters greater rights to inherit land (Hindu Succession Act) led to an increase in girls' educational attainment. The reform did not fully compensate for the existing gender bias in land inheritance, suggesting the need for further study of the channels through which land law reforms change household behaviors.

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  • Wives' Economic Decision-Making Power in the Family: Five Asian Countries

    Mason (2003)

    Original Abstract:

    This paper analyzes multiple measures of married women's empowerment in the domestic sphere in 56 communities spanning five Asian countries (India, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand). At issue is whether community or individual characteristics are better predictors of women's empowerment, and whether different dimensions of empowerment are similarly related to community or individual traits. The analysis shows that, consistent with the theoretical approach employed here, which treats gender relations as heavily influenced by community norms and values, community is a far stronger predictor of women's empowerment than are individual traits. The relationship of both community and individual traits to different measures of empowerment vary, suggesting that "empowerment" is inherently a multi- dimensional phenomenon, with women relatively empowered in some spheres but not in others. The primary policy implication is the importance of changing community norms and values about gender relations for empowering women. The results also suggest that policies to raise women's age at marriage, enhance their educations and open greater employment opportunities will also help to empower them, at least in some respects.

    Intervention settings:

    Intervention description: Land titling.

    Methodology: OLS regressions of wives' domestic economic power with 1993-94, authors' own survey.

    Sample: 7,287 women from five countries.

    Findings: Land ownership has positive impact on women's authority in making household-expenditure decisions in India and Thailand.

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  • How Access to Credit Affects Self-Employment: Differences by Gender during India's Rural Banking Reform

    Menon and Rodgers (2011)

    Original Abstract:

    Household survey data for 1983-2000 from India's National Sample Survey Organization are used to examine the impact of credit on self-employment among men and women in rural labor households. Results indicate that credit access encourages women's self-employment as own- account workers and employers, while it discourages men's self-employment as unpaid family workers. Ownership of land, a key form of collateral, also serves as a strong predictor of self- employment. Among the lower castes in India, self-employment is less likely for scheduled castes prone to wage activity, but more likely for scheduled tribes prone to entrepreneurial work.

    Intervention settings:

    Intervention description: Land titling and credit.

    Methodology: Instrumental variable probit models for likelihood of being self-employed with 1983-2000 NSSO.

    Sample: 408,385 individuals (43% women).

    Findings: Credit access encourages women's self-employment as own-account workers and employers; land ownership also serves as a strong predictor of self-employment.

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  • Women's Property, Mobility, and Decisionmaking: Evidence from Rural Karnataka, India

    Swaminathan et al. (2012)

    Original Abstract:

    Recent research has shown that a substantial gap exists in asset ownership between men and women. In this paper, we examine the impact of rural women's property ownership on their mobility and autonomy in decisionmaking. The results are based on data collected by the authors in the state of Karnataka, India (The Karnataka Household Asset Survey 2010-11), which has individual-level asset ownership and valuation information. The research was undertaken in order to measure the extent of gender disparities in asset ownership and wealth in the state, and to build on the empirical literature that discusses the importance of asset ownership for women. Using logistic regression models, we find that owning a house or a plot of agricultural land enhances women's ability to travel to the market, health center, and other places outside the community, and to make decisions about their employment, health, and use of money independently. These processes, while important for women's own welfare, are also instrumental in improving the welfare outcomes of the entire household, particularly those of children. The impact of women's asset ownership and enhanced decisionmaking abilities on children's nutritional outcomes cannot be overstated. The findings of this paper thus bring to focus the need to intensify policy interventions aimed at increasing women's asset base and bridging the gender asset gap.

    Intervention settings:

    Intervention description: Land titling.

    Methodology: Logit models with 2010-11 Karnataka Household Asset Survey.

    Sample: 4,677 individuals (53% women).

    Findings: Home ownership and land ownership both have positive effects on women's mobility outside the home, and on their ability to make decisions about their own work, health and expenditures.

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