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Nick Z.

It is difficult to imagine living in a country in which women are so overly discriminated against. Of course we see inequality between men and women in the United States (such as in the labor market) but not to the extent that is observed in developing countries. To deny women the right to own land or "travel without their husbands" amazes me.

What doesn't amaze me is the fact that developing countries that discriminate heavily against women are far from equilibrium. Women are basically being eliminated from the labor force and economy in some instances. Such non-participation rates that result from discrimination have a large toll on the greater economy and society, unsurprisingly.

In one of Professor Goldsmith's classes I remember discussing self efficacy amongst children in the educational system. The idea of self efficacy, which is belief in oneself to complete an action or carry out a responsibility, is applicable to women. If women are being discriminated against, self efficacy will decrease and productivity will suffer as well. When productivity decreases the aggregate production of an economy will suffer as well.

Daniel Molon

In this article, Esther Duflo provides one example of how institutions play a role in the economy. The institution she examines is the role of women in society, which is not something that we have accounted for in our models yet, but it clearly is an important factor in developing countries. Women’s lack of participation in the labor force, in certain countries, greatly reduces those countries available labor. By allowing women the opportunities to work, countries that greatly discriminate against women would be effectively doubling their potential work force. Also, by providing women with more freedoms and better living situations, the benefits of increasing GDP are more likely to improve the education of children and reduce poverty. This is true, because single mothers are a large proportion of the poor; therefore, their children grow up poor and are not provided with as valuable of an education as they could be getting. This policy would be an enlargement policy, but it would send the added revenue to women, who are less well-off than men in societies that discriminate against them. So, improving women’s opportunities in the work force is a policy that would increase income, reduce inequality, and reduce poverty.


In Chapter 8 of Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen described the difference between the well-being and agency approaches of women’s empowerment: the well-being approach emphasized empowering women for the sake of empowering women, while the agency approach emphasized empowering women so that all of society—both men and women—could benefit (Sen 189). Esther Duflo’s paper, Women Empowerment and Economic Development, seemed to take the well-being approach the first half and the agency approach the second. And while Duflo and I agree that empowering women is a worthy goal in of itself, I think the “pervasive stereotypes against women’s ability” (1076) will hinder any policies targeted at helping women’s outcomes unless the agency approach is stressed.

Duflo expounds upon ways that educating women can empower them to better raise their children, for which women are usually the primary caregivers. Although evidence on causality is not sound in this realm, there is an association between mother’s education and child welfare, including health (1065). In addition, educating women can empower them within the household, so that the household may function more efficiently; for instance, Duflo gave the example of Burkina Faso, where imperfect negotiation within the household lead to inefficient economic allocation of land for harvest between male and female (1069). Also, giving women the opportunity, be it through education and (arguably) quotas, can add a new dimension to policy decisions, because women tend to have different preferences in policy (1070). While women’s policy decisions should not necessarily dominate over men’s, their focus on things like child health and nutrition should certainly receive a voice for the betterment of society as a whole.

The effect of microcredit policies and quotas targeted towards women are debatable, but they could be steps to help women be the agency of social change on a macro scale. And as Duflo said, ”policies targeted toward women can have immediate consequences.” Looking back at Rodrick’s discussion on growth strategies, we can at least propose the idea that the effects of women-targeted policies may have the immediacy needed to kickstart economic growth, even if sustenance is more complex.

Colleen Paxton

Duflo says that economic development alone cannot guarantee improving the position of women, while on the other hand; women’s empowerment offers improvements in some areas such as children’s welfare but not in others. Duflo believes policy measures that favor women are the key to bring equality to women. Amartya Sen in Development as Freedom also points out that women’s empowerment leads to significant increases in child survival and decreases in fertility rates, and the agency of women should not be overlooked in the development arena based on the contributions women can make to overall growth.

Duflo discusses women being overlooked in health and education when they do not participate in jobs outside of the home. Duflo referenced studies in China and India where job opportunities for women in lead to better outcomes. I have previously researched women in areas of India for where time is not spent on jobs or in the home, but rather walking for three to four hours per day to collect water, and according to Isha Ray, this captures 30% of their daily energy. In one state in India, Maharashtra, water is located up to 3 kilometers away. Women carry water because they are not seen as equals and deprived of their decision-making rights. Ray describes the Women in Development theory, which explains the inequality due to lack of resources: “These resources
included healthcare, education, voting rights, employment opportunities, credit, and also
basic services such as water and sanitation.” Human capital is wasted when women are walking hours a day to secure water, which results in billions of hours of lost productivity. But when women are given the
resources to improve their communities in combination with development programs, the results are encouraging. One study in Gujarat, India, showed that women spent their time on microenterprises when there was reliable access to water. This example speaks to Duflo’s ideas on women empowerment and economic development. The combination of policy and empowerment through resources could lead to a better position for women.

Source: Ray, Isha. “Women, Water, and Development.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources, Vol. 32: 421-449 (Volume publication date November 2007).

Carson Coffman

What interested me the most in this paper is Duflo's point that the difference between the treatment of boys and girls in a household is not as clear cut as one would guess. Girls and boys might get the same amount of something, but girls' needs might be different. Or often times households may misrepresent the proportions given to each of the children. However, the argument that stood out the most was that the differences are the easiest to observe when families experience extreme circumstances. If families are incredibly stressed, women will feel the repercussions and the expectations to fix the situation.

Enter economics and development. Duflo asserts that increasing a household's ability to "weather the storm" either literally or metaphorically will indirectly help women in a myriad of ways. This is a very interesting, and valid, point. Just reducing poverty in general (by promoting and accelerating development) even without targeting women will help them. Families will be given more resources and options, thus reducing the stress and mistreatment of the "weaker" ones in the family. What a said point to consider, that if one is not considered to live as long as another (boys vs. girls) that a family will not invest as much money to support them and help them to thrive.

On a completely separate note, relating to my post on the first Banerjee and Duflo paper regarding the perpetuation of poverty, the perpetuation of this treatment of girls and women is something that I cannot quite wrap my mind around. If a woman was treated like this as a girl, then why continue to treat your own children like this? You would think the cycle would break somewhere. I suppose people choose to maintain the status quo.

Lizzie Weston

I agree with Duflo when she says that economic development alone will not be enough to bring about equality between men and women. Although development will clearly lead to increased health care and education for women and girls, it will not necessarily change people’s thinking about how to allocate resources. If a family gains resources, uses them for their daughter’s education, and then happens to lose them again, those resources will most likey be taken again from the daughter. No change of heart has come about as a result of development, it is just seemingly less pronounced. In the developed United States, for example, there is still clear gender bias, as Nick said. I was somewhat offended when, on page 1057, Duflo pointed out that “economic development leads to a change in the nature of work that is more conductive to women’s work” in reference to clerical and secretary jobs. Yes, these jobs helped get women into the work force in the middle 20th century, but if there was no gender bias, all jobs in the labor market should be conductive to both men and women. This type of thinking, along with the fact that women get paid less than their male counterparts for similar work and that there are less women in government, show that there needs to be more effort into promoting gender equality than just economic development. Or maybe there is a lag period?


Echoing what previous posts have mentioned, Ether Duflo’s article “Women Empowerment and Economic Development” addresses the issue of women’s status in poor countries, and how this affects everything from health, to economic progress, literacy rates, etc. The first question she addresses is a classic “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” dilemma; in this case, the issue is whether policy stimulating development or policy directly aimed at empowering women should be enacted to improve women’s rights.

One argument is that policy should be directly aimed at promoting women’s empowerment, and economic development will follow. As Deflo and Sen have illustrated, increased levels of education and employment reduce female infant mortality, increase 0-4 female survival rate, and the resources available to households due to extra income. Another policy choice that Deflo mentions would improve women’s rights is free or subsidized health care. I know this sounds like a silver bullet, but Deflo points out that when health care is free and parents don’t have to choose which children to pay to take to the doctor (e.g. boys), female children are much less vulnerable to unfair gender-bias in terms of health care.

Another point that Deflo and Sen made that I found made a lot of sense was that as women’s education and employment levels rise, fertility rates fall. As more and more women are educated and seek job, fertility rates drop because, for one, these women want the independence of having a job (e.g. personal income) and do not want to be “tethered” the raising children when they could be working. Employed women not only have increase economic independence, but also carry more of a “say” in the household decisions, such as how to allocate resources. This again helps women because as Sen points out, when women have a stronger voice in the household, female children are treated more fairly than if the mother did not have a job.

Like some of my peers have pointed out (and Deflo), I don’t think we can rely on policy aimed at economic development to promote economic development. That is not to say that women’s rights do not benefit from economic development, for there are many examples of this. However, I believe the development-first policy approach is too weak. First, it relies on the fact that A) this policy will, in fact, promote economic development and B) that the development that occurs will result in the empowerment of women. While there are example of development driving women’s rights, there are plenty of example of economic development resulting in no and negative change in women’s roles. I believe that policy should directly seek to empower women. Although these policies are not failsafe either, I think that direct policy increased the probability of empowering women, if in fact that is the goal.

Olivia Davis

The role of confidence in women’s empowerment and economic development stood out to me in this article. Dufloe mentions the “stereotype threat.” She cites a particular study where female students who are good at math do poorly on a hard math exam, while males with comparable skills do well. However, when the students are told that girls do just as well as boys on this particular test, the female students performed better. In other words, the women hold preconceived notions about their math abilities due to societal bias.

Later in the article, Dufloe discusses how societies with reserved positions of power for women tend to abandon their stereotypes concerning women as poor leaders. In my opinion, these examples indicate that the resistance to women as leaders stems from traditional societal gender roles and a fear of deviating from them. However, once the standards are broken and stereotypes are discredited, both men and women appear to be willing to accept and even support women in power.

Additionally, women as a whole are empowered to strive toward higher positions themselves. If women believe that they have a chance to make an impact in the economy by adding their input, they will be more likely to make an effort, which is understandable. Why promote a cause when you don’t think your voice will be heard or will only be met with opposition?

Although, as Dufloe states, giving power to women will not necessarily create a chain reaction to increase women empowerment and economic growth, I believe it certainly is a good start.

Vincent Kim

Duflo mentions that in the long run, investments in empowering women will create more productivity and grow the economy. However, he also explains that developing countries with small budgets face a trade-off between investing in the empowerment of young women and investing in the development of men and women (1063). This brings up the issue of when and with what extent to invest in women’s empowerment. I agree that countries need to achieve gender equality through public policies (such as affirmative action, discrimination laws, public campaigns, etc.), and I believe that the equality is an end goal as well as a function of development. That being said, I believe focusing on economic development may be as important (or more important) to countries than focusing on gender equality for two reasons. First, I believe some countries’ incomes may be so low that the increasing incomes may have more value than increasing equality (in terms of income and social equality). In other words, the poverty reduction is would be more valuable to the country than the increase social equality. Secondly, while Duflo is somewhat pessimistic about the magnitude with which economic development empowers women, she shows that there are correlations. Even if economic development increases gender equality slightly, that increase could have value that, when combined with the other benefits of economic development, justify the focus on economic development over gender equality.

At this point, I would be interested in studies that focus more on this time-sensitive trade-off between investing in gender equality and focusing on economic development. I would like to see how the optimal combinations of focus vary from country to country.

Sage Timberline

I found this to be a remarkably well-written piece and I was impressed with the combination of fact-driven economic data and thoughtful analysis - the perfect combo for studying economics, as we've discussed!

Duflo's conclusions in this paper remind me slightly of The Rise and Fall of Development Economics, and Krugman's "evolution of ignorance" theory. In both, there is a goal that most economists (and the general public) feel a very strong, almost obligatory pull to accomplish. In Krugman's piece, it is improving economic methods, in Duflo's: improving equality. However, when it comes to carrying these goals to fruition, we hesitate for fear of the negative consequences.

This is where the papers differ, in my opinion, because I find gender equality to be a more pressing issue than economic methods. To rephrase: I think the consequences of NOT acting to promote gender equality are worse than the consequences of not improving methods. The data show that educating and empowering women has a net positive impact across the board. The tremendous devastation that occurs in cultures with harsh inequality, and the huge potential gains for our entire PLANET that could come from affirmative action are enough to make anyone devote their life to trying to resolve this issue. But as Duflo points out, the consequence at times is negative for men. She poses the question again and again in different ways throughout the paper: is it worth the (hopefully) short term consequences for the long term benefits?

I have looked at Duflo's research backwards and forwards and I come to the same unsatisfying but responsible conclusion that I came to with Krugman's piece: we need to be carefully aware of the negative side effects, and proceed with cautious passion towards our long term goal.

Gyung Jeong

In this paper, Esther Duflo examines both sides of the bidirectional relationship between economic development and women’s empowerment. The first argument is that gender equality will improve when poverty rate declines. However, others believe that gender equality is necessary to achieve economic growth. As “Jspencer” points out, we are facing the classic “which came first: the chicken or the egg?” dilemma. This leads to the question of what would be the most productive and the fastest way to improve both the economy and the status of women. The issue is should the government enact policies for economic development or policies that empower women and their rights? Just like other classmates have said, I agree with Duflo’s argument that economic development alone cannot resolve the gender inequality issue. To take it one step further, I think policies aimed at empowering women are necessary and can also improve the economy. As Daniel pointed out, single mothers are a large proportion of the poor. I totally agree with Daniel’s idea that if there is a policy for them, there will be multiple benefits. It will allow women to have more income, which will also reduce poverty. Also, it will reduce gender inequality.

Greta Witter

With reference to widespread gender inequalities, Michael Kimmel said “privilege is invisible to those who have it” (LSE Public Lecture 2012). Men have long been firmly seated atop the rankings of social hierarchy. Gender inequality, masculine dominance in particular, is deeply rooted in societies and widely pervasive. Tradition dictates that men hold positions of control in economic, political, social, and domestic spheres alike. These gendered divisions dole out power and privilege – most often to men, who continue on blindly reaping the benefits of the most advantaged rankings in society. Without some powerful combination of genuine grassroots and public sector support, social and cultural norms seem destined to continually adapt to maintain current understandings of privilege. Duflo gets at the heart of this dilemma, by arguing that “neither economic development nor women’s empowerment is the magic bullet it is sometimes made out to be” (1076). Rather, policy actions must be implemented at each step along the development path, so as to keep chipping away at the pervasive social inequalities.

Chase Douglas

I found this article very interesting, and as I read the article a particular class discussion continually popped in my head. It was the discussion in regards to why poor families tend to be so large, and ultimately are so large because children in a sense are assets for poor families. To me this idea correlated strongly with many of the anecdotes found in the article. Examples include witch burnings during times of food shortages (elderly women seemingly contribute the least to food production, but require resources, so they are no longer 'assets') or girls in Indian caste systems being educated in English because that was socially acceptable as opposed to boys.

Thinking further on this assets idea one thing that surprised me was that even in countries that were developed there was still this 'implicit bias' about the role of women in society. This only gets worse in less developed countries, and the whole section on gender preferences for leaders was interesting yet very discouraging. I think that point the author makes about how women internalize this bias negatively affects there outlook on life and identity is something that needs to be changed to achieve equality and to encourage women to continue to demand for this equality

Looking for a solution I wonder if another point raised in our most recent class clearly applies to this situation. A classmate inquired about why length of education is the only constraint measured in the 'education' part of development and not quality of education. In this scenario I wonder if this argument could provide useful insights to this scenario. Studies on what is taught and how it is taught in regards to gender and gender roles should be assessed and whether or not policy implementing guidelines for gender education could be a helpful parameter in increasing the status and equality of women in society.


While we don’t see the same kind of gender discrimination in the US as in countries like India and China, I think that for being such a developed country, the US should be much closer to gender equality than we are right now. My primary example is Latin America. While machismo is very much alive and well (and in daily life women aren’t treated as equally as in the US), the region has had nine different women assume the presidency (as interim president, or president in their own right). The first woman president in Latin America, Isabel Perón, assumed power in 1974. In America, we could never imagine such a thing. It was a big enough deal when Barack Obama was the first African-American president to be elected in 2008, but we still have yet to elect a woman, a demographic (along with many others, like Hispanic and Asian) that has yet to be represented in a presidential election. However, I don’t think that the US is barring women from these positions, as might be the case in other less developed countries. For whatever reason, not many women vie for these positions, and that may be attributed to lack of empowerment. I guess I don’t entirely understand why Latin America, a region of mostly middle-income countries with a large amount of inequality (large gaps between the rich and the poor; not much of a middle class, but slowly growing and becoming more influential in politics and daily life) could currently have three democratically elected woman presidents (Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, Laura Chinchilla in Costa Rica, and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Argentina) while the mighty and developed United States is still waiting for its first.

Mac Keers

One of the things that I found most striking in the article was the idea that people take life expectancy into consideration when it comes to educating their children. On the surface this seems like a cold, calculating way to treat a loved one but it is important to consider the circumstances that people are in in these developing countries. If a heavy investment is made in a child that is likely to die early then it could have a severe impact on the rest of the family, who may not be able to recover from the lost resources. This is another blunt reminder of the condition that people find themselves in when they are living in poverty. They need to treat family members like assets and try to allocate things efficiently even at the cost of things like their children’s education.
This article also shows us that there are no simple solutions to gender inequality. Economic changes may only be the beginning and then there are cultural barriers to confront. This idea is well explained in the paragraph related to people’s perceptions of leadership. Given the same information, people in some of the countries surveyed generally responded less favorably when they learned that the person or leader being described was female. This may be due to a lack of experience with female leaders or due to cultural bias. Either way, no amount of economic development will be able to solve those kinds of issues alone. However, putting women in a position to become educated could at the very least begin leading society down the path to understanding that women are equally fit for leadership roles. There are also probably ways that women could be assisted in the early stages of transition that would help to expose the population to female leadership which might help to overcome some previous bias.

Minh Ton

In this paper, Esther Duflo examines both sides of the bidirectional relationship between economic development and women’s empowerment. Duflo says that economic development alone cannot guarantee improving the position of women, while on the other hand; women’s empowerment offers improvements in some areas such as children’s welfare but not in others. Duflo expounds upon ways that educating women can empower them to better raise their children, for which women are usually the primary caregivers. Although evidence on causality is not sound in this realm, there is an association between mother’s education and child welfare, including health (1065).

I don’t think we can rely on policy aimed at economic development to promote economic development. Thus, a combination of policy and empowerment through resources could that leads to a better position for women should be the goal of our society.

Aaron DiGregorio

I found this article by Esther Duflo to be extremely well analyzed and articulated. Duflo does a wonderful job of, as we’ve discussed in class, combining fact based analysis and his own interpretation and analysis. This allows Duflo to see beyond what the data is telling and into the deeper relationship between economic growth and gender empowerment.

Duflo’s initial argument pertains to the question of whether or not gender equality is necessary to produce economic growth or whether it is simply a byproduct of it. This question becomes similar to the age old saying, “What came first the chicken or the egg?” I believe that both statements are true. Yes, I believe that gender progression towards equality is necessary for economic development, but at the same time, I believe that gender equality can only become true once an economy has fully developed, thus making both initial statements true.

Peter Partee

Peter Partee
Econ 280 – Prof. Casey
Blog Post Week 3

“Women Empowerment and Economic Development”

Development economics normally stipulates that strides toward equality can be made as a result of macroeconomic growth. However, Esther Dulfo observes whether this assertion might contain endogeneity, namely that greater equality for women can result in growth. Duflo first establishes the depth to which inequality is rampant in developing countries; citing World Bank statistics about women suffering significantly lower rates school enrollment, labor force participation, and life expectancy. When poverty stricken families make decisions at the margin they often neglect, or subordinate, the needs of female children. The traditional development economics story would indicate that reducing poverty reduces families’ needs to make those types of decisions.

Duflo suggests that growth is not sufficient for economy-wide inequality, but that growth in conjunction with policy reform leads to empowerment. Expectations precede parents’ decisions about how to treat their sons and daughters and how to allocate their assets among them. If parents anticipate that their daughters will have fewer opportunities, Duflo suggests that they will often invest in their sons. While this is certainly an abhorrent practice, the objectification and utilization of children as productive assets is another issue that poverty stricken families confront. Duflo provides an example in India where the Business Process Outsourcing centers recruited from notably discriminatory areas in India. The result of the recruiting was that parents began to enroll their young girls in school at higher rates, affording them the opportunity to be recruited. Another method to implement policy to empower women in developing nations is to make them available to do more work. In many countries women do most of the household chores, Dulfo argues that is appliances are made more available to households then women be able to pursue better opportunities. This reminded me of the example we referenced in class about handing an agrarian family a tractor, which allows children to move to more lucrative areas of a country. China is utilized as an example of a country, which has experienced decades of double digit GDP growth, yet has not experienced equality in gender birth rates. Duflo argues that policies that explicitly favor women are justified and the “gender equality being desirable and worth the cost it implies” economically and socially speaking.

Jenny Rea Bulley

This article makes me really contemplate rational thought and market failures. In several classes we are discussing women's roles in development. There is a general consensus that investment in women yields higher return to investment because they distribute their human capital and income to their children and to health and education at a higher rate than men. This is because of their caretaker role and their lower starting point in development.

I thought a lot about why women are treated worse than men, especially in developing economies. We understand how important women are to development, so then why does this problem persist. It can be easy to pass judgement. However, there are rational explanations for this phenomenon. Women cannot yield as much physical output as men. Also, men receive a dowry at marriage and women must give one. Women leave the family at marriage to join the husband's, providing no more benefit to her parents. When your income and livelihood is so dependent on child labor and support, it makes sense that men are more valued, in the short run. In the long-run, we understand this concept is a fallacy and simply immoral and wrong. How do we change this systematic favoring of men over women? Is it simply education? Is it market restructuring? I don't have the answers.


I found this article very interesting, and after reading it I could not decide if I favored development argument or policy argument. However, after learning about the poverty income gradient today in class, I would argue that policies should be enacted that focus on decreasing the gender equality. The poverty income gradient looks at the entire poor population when making the argument that enormous amounts of inequality hinders the poor's overall opportunities to capitalize on economic growth as poverty does not decrease as much as it would without inequality. I think this same concept can be applied to women. Because of women's lower status within lower developing countries resulting in a gender gap in school enrollment and the work force, they are missing out on opportunities in comparison to men just like the in poverty income gradient. I know that there is a short term cost for males when policies focus on specifically target women, but in order for long term success I believe this route should be followed by policy makers.

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