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David Cohen

After reading the article, the idea that stood out most to me was the concept that economic development, and the availability of modern technology, can decrease the cost of discriminating against girls. The idea that economic development will disproportionately improve conditions and freedoms for girls is intuitive, as greater income would allow families to treat previously discriminated girls more equally. Additionally, the arguments that men will surrender some rights to women to ensure his kids get better education (as the importance of human capital increases), as well as that fathers might begin to want to protect daughters from son-in-law’s also makes sense. However, I never really thought about the possibility that new technology like ultra-sound would make it very easy to selectively abort girls rather than to raise and marry them. This explanation both in class and in the article was kind of shocking to me (especially Professor Casey’s anecdote regarding the billboard advertisement in India). In Taiwan, five years after the legalization of abortion, the birth-ratio of men to women rose 2.5 percentage points. This displays a new level of bias that is tough for me to understand. I sort of understand (though do not agree with) valuing a son’s education more (etc.), as the article shows many in India seem to believe in. I could not ever understand selectively aborting girls just because they are female. As a general opponent to abortion, this is horrific. Especially since this solution derives mostly from social pressures from within specific ethnic communities (even in the US). Chinese, Korean, Asian American, and Indian-American families all see abnormal birth-ratios in between sexes. Are these institutional forces that strong, even in the United States? This suggests the enormous importance of traditional institutions on behavior, especially as an impediment to development and freedoms. It also suggests that the spread of modern technology doesn’t do much to dissipate any of these traditions, therefore rendering technology as an enabling component to discriminating behavior. The two given examples of the benign effects of such institutions for girls (in the Mumbai caste system, as well as the in rural areas) seem like exceptions, but do illustrate the degree to which such belief-oriented institutions are fortified into society. It seems like the conclusion to be drawn here is a reoccurring one in this class: that the most effective way to increase freedoms is to concentrate on changing damaging institutions.

Tanpreet Hunjan

Duflo and Sen both mention the nutritional discrepancies among gender in developing countries, with girls being given less to eat then boys. Duflo tries to extend this argument through talking about a study where researcher’s attempted to keep diaries on how much each member in the household consumes over a given period. She then explains this research is often misreported by households who would want to hide these findings. This is a topic that was discussed at large in my South Asian Economics class. When trying to explain nutritional discrimination I discussed an interesting finding among my culture (which derives from rural Panjab in India) on eating patterns. When eating a meal, the entire family does not eat together but instead the men/ boys eat together first out of respect and the women/ girls eat after the men have finished eating. This finding from my own experiences found that males in the family were getting more meat and a balanced diet as well as a larger quantity of food compared to the females who would eat the less nutritional cuts of meat and food. For a family with substantially less money this can lead to great nutritional and health detriments for the girls. When sharing this similar experience with my professor the majority of the class found this eating pattern confusing and out of the ordinary and it reminded me of the role of religion, culture and tradition in shaping gender inequity among many developing countries-especially within South Asian.

Religious and cultural traditions are deeply embedded into my community within India and the importance of education has only recently been emphasized in my hometown. Duflo mentioned the association between the education of the mother having a positive effect on her children. She also made the link that as women become more educated employment levels rise and fertility rates fall. The empowerment and individual choice that having a job gives women makes it understandable as to why women don’t want the drain of this freedom through having many children.


I formed three primary thoughts while reading Duflo’s piece. First, Duflo describes Deaton’s method for indirectly estimating whether girls are given less to eat than boys as “ingenious,” and notes that he only finds differences in particularly harsh or extreme circumstances. However, I felt like his method could have been subject to a couple sources of error that would distort these results: One, a family may take away food from older daughters to give to the baby without reducing “adult goods”; or, two, it seems fairly likely that a family would treat all babies similarly, regardless of gender, just because they are babies, but then discriminate based on the child’s gender as he or she gets older (which would not be reflected in Deaton’s method). My second thought while reading the piece was a strong visceral discomfort towards the way women are treated in some of the anecdotes. Although it is not an economist’s job to deeply discuss morality, and admitting the author commented that “this inequality…is repulsive in its own right,” I couldn’t help but feel like looking at these issues from a strictly economic standpoint tends to fail to address the broad, fundamentally flawed views towards women by men that are in play in these situations. Obviously it isn’t completely fair for anyone in our class to moralize towards people whose circumstances we can’t even fathom; but, even as a pro-choice individual, considering the advertisement “better pay Rs 500 now than Rs 50,000 later” just feels very wrong to me. Finally, while reading Duflo’s piece I found the fact that boys in a lower-caste actually have worse educational and vocational attainments than girls because they are confined to learning Marathi rather than English very interesting. It was a little reminiscent of what is happening with lower income students in our country right now: boys are continuing to fall behind girls in educational attainments in part because they are confined by societal prescriptions for masculinity—prescriptions that do not encourage studying.

Pearce Embrey

It is interesting to see topics that span across multiple classes. In Duflo's article, "Women's Empowerment and Economic Development," in 3.1, she mentions how mother's education and earnings are correlated with their children's health. In Professor Blunch's 276 class, Health Economics of Developing Countries, we spent an extensive amount of class time reviewing articles and data that attributed to this perceived relationship. I think the education of women in developing countries is really important, both as a fundamental right, but also a way to empower them. I believe that if a woman is more educated, she will feel more confident, whether in searching for a job or for increasing their bargaining power in the home.

Cara Hayes

While “Women Empowerment and Economic Development” brings up so many issues regarding gender equality, I am particularly interested in Duflo’s discussion on women’s mortality rate during childbirth. I was shocked to hear that women in sub-Saharan Africa face a 1 in 31 chance of dying during childbirth while women in developed countries have a 1 in 4,300 risk of dying during childbirth. Knowing this, parents in developing countries see their daughters as having a greater chance of dying than their sons and are inclined to invest more in boys. Economists found that, not surprisingly, maternal mortality decreases as countries become more developed.

On Monday, there was an article in the Wall Street Journal called “Infant Mortality Soars in Venezuela” about the dire state of the health care system in Venezuela. In the first five months of this year, 4,704 babies in Venezuela died before reaching a year of age and their overall infant mortality rate is 18.6 per 1,000 live births. Childbirth-related maternal deaths in state hospitals are currently five times worse than they were in 2012. The article tells the story of a young mother whose newborn dies during childbirth and, days later, she also dies due to complications that easily could have been fixed in a more developed hospital. While Venezuela’s current situation is greatly exacerbated by the fall in oil prices, it is still not considered developed by many standards. Applying Duflo’s research could lead to significant improvements in the lives of poor Venezuelan people. This leads to the central question of Duflo’s article: Should policy-makers looking to alleviate the high infant and maternal mortality rates in Venezuela focus on developing the entire country or place their efforts in empowering women? Either way, there are clearly a great number of “missing women” in Venezuela and any steps toward development or reducing gender inequality would be steps in the right direction.

Julia Mayol

As a woman, I had mixed feelings while reading this paper. Firstly, some things were shocking and terrible to read: I did not have any idea that things such as sex-selective abortion existed. It is appalling to read that people could actually think of their daughters only in terms of how much they would cost them in the future. “Better pay Rs 500 now than Rs 50,000 later.” This is something I find really hard to believe, as I was raised by a mother who does everything for me and my siblings and tells me everyday how happy she to have me as her daughter.

However, not everything was that bad when talking about women´s well-being and agency. I think this paper presents all the benefits empowering women would bring to society in a really good way.

I was a little confused, as I think the paper contradicted itself. It first states that women’s control over resources will improve their say within the household, increasing their welfare, child nutrition and health. Nevertheless, it then states that “the identity of the income holder matters. […] when men receive the pension that they make the decision favorable to well-being and development.” I think this also contradicts what we have discussed in class.

Moreover, I really liked Dulfo's conclusion and especially the sentence: “Bring about equity between men and women, in my view a very desirable goal in and of itself, it will be necessary to continue to take policy actions that favor women at the expense of men, and it may be necessary to continue doing so for a very long time.”

I think the key aspect to the latter is “very long time.” The inequity between men and women has existed for so long that it will take a much longer time to desapear. Living in the US, which is without a doubt a developed country, I found out that the idea that men are better than women is still somewhat present. As Durfo points out “there is a widespread implicit bias, shared by both men and women, associating men with career and the sciences and women with family and liberal arts,” and I was able to experience that. During my first semester at W&L I was talking a Calculus class and a male friend was in that same class. After the midterm, he went to female friend that we have in common, and with amusement and a little bit of confusion asked her: “Hey, Julia is in my math class, and she is actually really good at it? How come?” This is just an anecdote that illustrates what Durfo says in her paper, and which shows why it will take lot of time to change people’s mind over topics related to women's role.

Elizabeth Wolf

One of the most pertinent points Duflo makes in her paper is the reason behind girls and women’s preferential treatment. In other sources we have examined this term, language such as “missing,” “not valued” and “commodity” are often used to discuss the social perspective on women in the developing world. This is a bleak outlook, and the immediate question becomes how any economic development will help erase this discrimination – the problem of true equality and advancement is daunting. However, Duflo does an excellent job, and provides an uplifting perspective, on what the actual fate of women is (both through extreme poverty as well as expansion). Yes, while girls are the first to starve in droughts or be kept out of school during times where the money is tight, she cites several specific examples to support the idea as money becomes more available, households are sending girls to school, giving them vaccinations, and feeding them at nearly the same rate as boys. Duflo argues that gender inequality is a positive feedback loop, and economic development is the way out of poverty and inequality. However, the line is blurred with, for example, the breakdown of the caste system and increases in Business Process Outsourcing Programs (BPOs) due to economic advancement. This breakdown allows women to access the labor markets they were previously shut out from. This is an example of a co-dependent advancement - to use the words of Sen, development is the means and end of freedom. Though the second half of the paper discusses the ways in which economic development is not enough – especially once development has reached a certain level – Duflo takes the reader through a well-catalogued array of improvements that come with economic developments. She also hints at her theory she outlined in the TED Talk – the “last mile” with the image of a bridge built from two banks but not connected in the middle. Ultimately, Duflo argues that economic development builds the two arms of the bridge from the bank, but social and cultural perception must connect the two pieces. Compared to other sources we’ve read, Duflo does an excellent job of making the reader feel that all hope is not lost and women are not confined to the sphere of domesticity while not ignoring the injustices done to women. This manner of presenting the issue of gender inequality and women’s empowerment is an effective one.


In section 2, when discussing whether development leads to women’s empowerment, Duflo cited studies that saw less discrimination towards girls than we may have thought. One found that spending on ‘adult goods’ decreased the same amount for families with girls and boys. My first thought was how complex this study must have been. On first glance, it seems to be quite a complex study with many variables that would be hard to pinpoint. Are changes in spending on alcohol and tobacco the best way to study changes in spending patterns when children are born? It also seems like it would be hard to find families with just boys or just girls? And can this study from Cote d’Ivoire and Pakistan be generalized to other countries? Duflo then discusses how discrimination towards girls only becomes evident when a family enters a crisis; citing changes both in girls’ nutritional levels or increases in witch killing during droughts. This is obviously a problem and a clear sign of discrimination, but there is a rationale (that the girls are more likely to die later in life from child birth, etc.). That does not mean this is okay, and my first reaction was that we need to address women’s rights in these areas. However, with a second read and less emotional feelings about these awful injustices I do understand that focusing simply on economic development may be a more efficient way to achieve the goal of increasing the wellbeing/agency of women. “As households become richer, they will also be less likely to face choices at the margin of subsistence.” Questions of whether the son or daughter should receive food, healthcare or education. Changing the attitudes and historical traditions may be too hard of a goal to achieve with limited funding.


During the article "Women Empowerment and Economic Development" I was reminded of how strong some gender norms and biases are in society and how widespread the effects can be, even if we don't consciously know their effects. While at Washington and Lee I helped one of my friends with a psychology experiment that was similar to one of the studies in the article. Instead of sorting male and female names by their association to the terms "career" and "family" and then doing the opposite, In the experiment that I helped with, the students had us sort toys and items we would associate with boys and girls and then swapped and had us do the opposite of what we would associate them with. After I started sorting things by the opposite of my gender association was when I realized how much harder it was to not put the truck under the boys section or the easy bake oven with the girls. Even though both things can be very gender neutral my subconscious bias was extremely hard to go against and made me question how much of my daily decisions are made using this bias and what negative consequences have occurred because of this bias/association. The fact that changing my usual assumption was a lot harder than i expected concerns me because if such a small transition between gender associations of toys was so hard I couldn't imagine the difficulty of convincing half a society that the other half can be associated with the same careers, jobs, opportunities, or authority. The sheer increase in difficulty and size let me better understand why there has been some difficulty in elevating women's role in many developing countries.

Andy Kleinlein

After discussion in class, watching the Ted Talk, and reading Dufolo’s “Women Empowerment and Economic Development,” it becomes apparent that there is a wide gap between men and women. While economics is highly correlated to the issues, I have found a different part of the argument that could be interesting. Changing the values within homes has not been discussed. Women have been oppressed in part due to longstanding tradition that men are those to make the money. This is simply tradition. They do not have anything to back it up that men will be more productive. This is just the family and villages’ beliefs. Therefore, the values within homes must shift. The issue comes with how to reach these people, which ties back into economics. Families need more money and thus, will receive greater education. They will be able to learn about these issues in school, which will ultimately tie back into empowering women. But overall, I believe the greatest problem lies within the homes. It is difficult to accomplish the goal of eliminating poverty and the oppression of women unless people’s mindsets change to some extent. Mutual respect and responsibility are required.

Matthew Jones

Esther Duflo's approach to discussing the empowerment of women was especially eye opening after the reading from Amartya Sen and the discussion in class on Tuesday. Her realist sentiment that often reveals the limitations to empowerment in women made her seem like somewhat of a pessimist at times to me. Nonetheless, the countless examples that the empowerment of women can spur economic development resonated the most with me. However, in order to empower women, we must first work on eliminating the pre-conceived gender roles of women. You often hear that a woman is confined to the "kitchen" or "bedroom." You also hear jokes about women making a sandwich or cleaning. I think these perceptions of women ultimately limit the true abilities of empowerment. How much can a woman advance her own education or career, have a political role in society, or even contribute to household decision making if society has these preconceived conceptions about her? I think ultimately we must remove these incorrect perceptions of women's roles before we can count on the full effect of their empowerment to be realized. In addition to society accepting women as equal members, we must first make sure women are aware of their own equality. One of my friends who studied Psychology at VCU has gone on numerous trips to India in order to educate women of their own rights. As we have seen through the readings, women are often significantly overpowered by their husbands in the household. The missions that she has gone on to educated women of their own rights and abilities have had significant effects on reducing fertility rates and improving health, often in slums with awful living conditions. Women are overall an invaluable resource that stand to significantly impact and assist the process of development, so it is about time we realize that for the betterment of our own society and world.

Allie Barry

In Duflo’s paper, Women Empowerment and Economic Development, she mentions that participation of women in the labor market has grown by 15% in East Asia and Latin America between 1971 and 1995, and that this rate is faster than that of men. She goes on to make the point that by empowering women to work, female life expectancy is raised and there are various other positive outcomes which could lead to increased gender equality. However, this immediately made me think of the documentary film I watched for my Latin American Caribbean Studies Class “Maquilapolis: City of factories”. In this documentary protestoras (women activists) film their own personal experiences living in Mexico working for the Maquilas. Maquilas are factories for textiles, medical devices, small parts of technology and various other goods which employ mostly women in Mexico. While the aim of the documentary is to show that these women are agents of change, able to make their own income and independent, many of us in the class found it utterly depressing. In the documentary they show and tell about the places they work, the awful health effects they experience, the pollution caused by this “economic development” which is harming their homes and health, and how they are taken advantage of by major corporations who do not abide by the laws since most of the women are unaware of the laws. While these women are empowered in the sense that they are able to make an income, at the same time they are subjected to unhealthy and unethical working conditions. The women in this video explain that they are “protestoras” who work with other women to spread the word about the laws so women do not continue to be taken advantage of. While I agree that economic development and getting more women to be a part of the work force is necessary, I think one point that is often overlooked is what kind of work they are being offered and how that work is effecting the environment they live in. In the case of the Maquilas, the factories are deteriorating the villages where these women live and unfortunately I don’t believe this type of employment is empowering them or helping to decrease gender inequality.

Corey Guen

Esther Duflo makes a number of compelling points in her paper, “Women Empowerment and Economic Development”, but one in particular stood out to me. Though I have studied poverty and development for several years at W&L, I had never considered, as Duflo presents it, that economic development goes hand in hand with a reduction in fertility, and as such is an indirect avenue to saving women’s lives. As citizens of a wealthy, developed nations, we rarely think about the danger that childbearing once posed, and still poses to the women of poor nations. The statistic Duflo offers is shocking; while 1 in 4300 women in developed regions die due to complications from childbirth, 1 in 31 Sub-Saharan African women do. That is a staggering difference, even though that region is likely to be the worst in the world. From this insight, I drew a connection to a class I am taking called Health Economics in Developing Countries, in which we just finished a paper by Paul Glewwe, which looked at data from Morocco to assess the impact of a mother’s education on child health outcomes. Glewwe’s work, and that of many researchers before him, found a strong positive correlation between increased mother’s education and improved child health, but he also found a strong connection between education and reduced family size. This is due to education increasing the opportunity cost of having children, and in a purely economic sense they become liabilities rather than productive assets, and fertility goes down. Economic development, women’s empowerment and better education for women all go hand in hand as goals within themselves, but the evidence presented by Duflo and Glewwe point to far more wide-reaching and positive outcomes beyond the direct impact to women. Education and development allow women to better access their full potential, participating in the workforce and endowing them with the resources and knowledge to better care for their children, which improves the outcomes of the children they already have, while reducing the chance they die in childbirth or cannot support a family.

Spencer Payne

I would like to start by saying that this paper opened my eyes to a lot of the struggles that women face, and that I firmly believe that all nations should make serious efforts to increase women’s empowerment. However, I would like to focus my comments on one area that Duflo discusses in this paper: political quotas.

Duflo says that evidence provides support for the idea of “reservations” or quotas for women in policy-making positions, and that an international target has been set at about 30 percent. But while I certainly agree that women should be involved in policy-making discussions, I question two aspects of the quota system: how the percentage of representation is determined and how feasible a political quota system is.

In my opinion, determining the “socially optimal” political engagement ratio would be difficult. For while it may seem that a 50-50 ratio of men and women become involved in policymaking would be ideal, in theory, I question whether that ratio would be supported by deeper analysis. Everyone’s preferences are different, so perhaps the spread should be 60-40 or 40-60. We just do not know without deriving some indifference curves. It could be the case that, holding all else equal, men are more interested in pursuing political careers than women, or vice versa.

My next question is about the feasibility of establishing political quotas, using the United States as an example. In class, we said that women comprise about 20 percent Congress — a figure that does not even meet international target of female representation. However, I question how a political quota would function in the United States. If we operate under the assumption that, say, half of congressional politicians should be women, how would the quota work? Perhaps every state could be required to have one male and one female senator, but I wonder how representation in the House could be determined. Would each district be required to have two representatives (thereby doubling the size of the House), or would some districts be required to elect male representatives while others would be required to elect female representatives? And, in the latter case, would districts be required to elect a representative of the same gender in perpetuity, or would there be some kind of gender rotation system?

All this is to say that determining a country’s “socially optimal” political engagement ratio is difficult and, even if discovered, implementing policy that facilitates that ratio is challenging. Doing so might even necessitate that a country restructures its political model. I certainly believe that such change is worth it, but it seems unlikely that it can happen overnight.

Michael Hegar

In Esther Duflo's "Women Empowerment and Economic Development" she touches on points that Sen mentioned in chapter 8 of "Development as Freedom." Mainly that improving women's status in developing societies by giving them freedoms is a catalyst for causing economic change for the country. More free women lead to better home care for children and lower fertility rates.
One thing that really stood out to me is the disadvantage girls/women have their whole lives in developing countries. In America we are still not completely equitable but girls largely have the same opportunities as boys. To have society stacked against you since you were in your mother's womb is a stark reality girls in many developing countries live with. It will take more than just policy to overcome a barrier like this that is so embedded in some societies. It will take people changing their mind and fundamental beliefs about gender roles in society.

Alex Shields

I think it is easy to see why many policymakers would simply accept the concept that economic development improves the gender equality gap and simply focus on the development side of policies. In some developing countries this would certainly be the simplest approach and in many cases the easiest approach to swallow. Culturally, some countries do not believe that gender equality is as important as western societies stress. This means that, in many cases, policies of women’s empowerment would be difficult to pass and even more difficult to enforce. This is not to say that empowerment policies should be ignored; on the contrary, in order to see real progress in women’s rights, policy changes need to be made directly relating to women’s rights as opposed to men’s. Duflo was correct in looking at this issue as a two pronged approach between development and empowerment. One without the other can see some progress but major progress cannot be made without the other. Development alone will improve the lives of women as the well-being of people in general go up but would leave certain hierarchies and inequalities in place. Empowerment alone would look to improve the hierarchies and inequalities that are currently in place in certain societies but without general development, improvements in female livelihood will come at the expense of male livelihoods, creating conflict in society and pushbacks to such policies.

I found some of the negative impacts of women’s empowerment that Duflo discussed to be very interesting such as the decrease in focus on education when women gain more power in the household and in society. I wonder if this is just a phenomenon found in developing nations or in certain societies or across all nations no matter their level of economic development. I find it hard to believe that a household run by a single mother in the United States or certain regions with female political leaders in the US would focus less on education than a single father or male political leaders.

Lilly Grella

Duflo discusses the relationship between women empowerment and economic development ultimately hoping to understand the interrelationship of the two important issues. It is seemingly obvious that they are closely related, and Duflo immediately recognizes this. Rather than focusing on the interrelatedness of the two, she investigates the two directions the tie between the two issues can run. The first one connection she examines is that economic development leads to women empowerment. She proposes that economic development in itself cannot guarantee total improvement for women. Recently in Professor Goldsmith’s class, we spoke about self-esteem and its impact on productivity. If a person feels helpless or has increased self-doubt, they are less likely to work at their most productive level, which in turn reduces the aggregate production of the society. Even if economic development affords women more opportunities, the stigma against women and their ability may remain. In this case, women are still negatively impacted. Duflo recognizes the weakness of putting economic development first and proposes that through policy measures that benefit women, equality is possible.


This paper focused a lot on the positive effects of development on women and also the positive effects of increased women’s rights, power, etc… on economic development as well. This goes along with Sen’s idea that something can be a means and an end. Improved women’s rights are desirable in and of themselves. But what stuck out to me in this paper was the psychological aspect of chauvinism and female inferiority in society. Duflo brought up very interesting examples involving this idea with her references to the association of men with work and science and women with the household and liberal arts. She also provided an example of intrinsic stereotypical differences between males and females with the study regarding math scores and the stereotype that males are better at math than females. I feel as if the root of the woman empowerment issue is the ideas that society and culture have ingrained in all of us regarding women. I believe a lot of this goes all the way back to religion. In Christianity alone, there are many quotes in the bible that literally state that a woman must be submissive and subservient to her husband. I went to a Catholic high school and during a Confession (in which attendance was required), one of the priests told me to my face that women are naturally submissive and should be subservient to men. He even tried to biological describe how the anatomy of a woman supports that claim (that was the last day I ever went to a confession). I do not believe that women are naturally submissive/feel inferior unless they are affected subconsciously by societal ideals as shown through the experiment regarding math performance. Regardless, it is clearly incorrect and unethical to generalize an innate female inferiority, yet Christianity does this and is one of the largest religions in the world. Even in our pledge of allegiance we say “one nation, under God”. Furthermore, there are more subtle examples of male superiority. Look at our last names. They’re our fathers. This goes back to how men were the only ones to inherit property and thus the father’s name became the family name. This still exists in many parts of the world as well. With the relatively new arrival of woman’s rights and gender equality in terms of world history, looking back in history, to me, makes society’s standards regarding women seem primitive and unfair. With this, I think it is important that social standards find ways to change so as to increase women's empowerment and thus economic development.


Jack Miller^ (google plus account)


I found so very many aspects of Esther Duflo’s “Women Empowerment and Economic Development” inspiring in the way that makes you feel true wretchedness in your gut but simultaneously want to do everything you can to fix it. She illustrates a problem that is as old as time, one which might never be solved. I found particularly striking her words on selective abortion and South African pension plans as they related to the height and weight of girls. But more than anything, I was struck by the sheer amount I simply did not know before I took this class and availed myself to the harsh realities that I would have faced had I been born elsewhere. The past five weeks have opened my eyes to so many parts of the world I’ve never thought to know, encouraging me to act and learn and do as much as I can. But this week has hit home, perhaps because I’m a woman who is on the precipice of those years in which I will have to think about childbearing and economic agency. I called my mother after Tuesday’s class to explain to her that what I’m learning in college is informing me in ways I’d never imagined. In this particular conversation, I was explaining to her how grotesquely privileged I am in my ability to gain a meaningful education and subsequent employment. I was relaying how I felt guilty for thinking about what a future husband could provide for me, now realizing that I am so indescribably blessed to be able to provide for myself. And I said I planned to do just that, based partly on a guilt I had never experienced. But my mother then said to me that no matter how hard I work to provide for myself, I alone cannot have a child. My husband can support me in all I pursue, but he cannot bear a baby. She cut to the quick, reminding me that my own biology is, in itself, considered a setback. She encouraged me to continue in my goals, but she provided a reality check that even in this country, my gender is at a disadvantage. As the conversation waned and we hung up, I got to thinking – I want a child someday. I want a lucrative career that can support me and, hopefully, my family. But I am stuck – even in the best possible country in which I could have been born – in a cycle that preaches the inability of women to have it all. This sent my mind tumbling, thinking of all the amazing things I can do in America, like vote and start a business and even be born in the first place. But I also came to the harsh realization that my problems are astoundingly minuscule compared to women my age in India, Sub-Saharan Africa and so many more places. I want to continue to learn what I can do to make this inequity a thing of the past, to empower women to pursue the same goals I can and to ensure that missing women are soon found.

Jillian Leigh

While reading Duflo's article "Women Empowerment and Economic Development" I realized how lucky I am to have been born in a country that has made major strides in gender equality, even though we still have a long way to go. This article reminded me about when I started to swim competitively my mom told me about how when she was in middle school in order to be a serious female athlete you had to go to boarding school. When she was in 7th grade she had been figure skating for years and in order to get to the next level she either had to leave home or give it up. There were no programs in the area that offered a program she could participate in and girls sports in general didn't have as much support as boys sports. Looking back at where I was with my swimming in 7th grade, it was drastically different. I was on multiple teams, that didn't discriminate against anyone for any reason, and could push myself to any level I wanted with out having to leave home. I realized that in women's sports as a country we've made many strides in the past 30 years, as I am able to compete at a collegiate level, while my mother had to give up something she loved at a young age. Women's sports still has a long way to come in order to be held at the same level as men's sports and it is only a fraction of the gender inequality issue in the US. I also realized while reading this article that I felt a little uncomfortable that a country that still has a long way to go is the one that is providing guidance for developing countries. Although we are a lot more progressive than a lot of countries when it comes to gender inequality, I can't help but think that it's a little hypocritical that we're telling these countries how to achieve gender equality when we still have a long way to go before we also reach that goal.

Rachel Baer

Duflo conducts an interesting investigation on the relationship between empowerment and development in both her ted talk that we watched in class and her paper “Women Empowerment and Economic Development.” She proves multiple different points to show how economic development can improve the well-being and social status of women throughout the world, particularly focusing on studies conducted in countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan. One aspect of the paper that I found to be particularly interesting was how it examined both sides of the relationship between empowerment and development. Much of the paper is spend explaining and providing examples of how different forms of economic development (mortality rates, immunization rates, political power, insurance, access to markets, education, etc.) can lead to the empowerment of women. Duflo also makes the important observation, which is sometimes overlooked, that while these developments can provide empowerment for women, there are always going to be set-backs or trade-offs. I believe that both sides of the argument are important to consider when making decision on economic policy and development.

I also think this ties in with Sen’s idea of development as freedom. Sen argues that improving women’s agency improves women’s well-being, which brings me back to Duflo’s argument of how if women had more opportunities to participate in the labor market they would be better off. I think that one of the most important take-aways from this week’s readings and discussions is that it is more effective for women have the ability to participate and act on their own accord in order to improve their social status and overall well-being, rather than simply providing passive aid to women. Improving women's agency is a long term solution in reducing gender inequality, and it allows women to help themselves and to help other women, while passive aid is short term solution to a long term problem. I also believe that the best way to help get rid of the biases against women is providing them with the same level of opportunity and power as men both in the labor market and at home.

Thomas Thagard

I would like to mention a crass but accurate quote from earlier in the semester in which professor Casey stated that “when children move from assets to liabilities. People have less of them”. This is particularly evident in regard to women in third world countries. The social and cultural norms confine women to the household and to marriage. Consequently, their impending marriages, sometimes arranged result in bride prices, which cost the family money. Thus, girls are viewed as liabilities to the family. However, I believe that this is absolutely ridiculous. Despite cultural and social norms, the idea of belittling women in regards to education and job opportunities statistically limits one’s work force and limits the brainpower of a nation. It is in this manner that countries tend to hinder themselves by perpetuating their norms. It’s angering in a way. Just because something has been done for extended period of time does not mean that it’s right. Thus, the systematic oppression of these women only perpetuates poverty and gender stereotypes. I am all for Duflo’s final conclusion that their must be systematic bias towards women in order to establish equality. While I do believe in total equality for both genders based upon talent and brainpower, I believe that one must provide bias for individuals systematically oppressed. In order to break a vicious and seemingly endless cycle of poverty, one must give their society a push. I have never see society change unless it has been forced to do so.

Crosby Ellinger

I found "Women Empowerment and Economic Development" by Esther Duflo to be a very interesting and well written article. I believe she does a great job laying out the issue and the different directions a country might take to improve inequality and increase economic development.

For instance, Esther Duflo starts out by highlighting that there are two ways in which one can try to improve inequality in a country: promote economic development, which has a positive correlation with women's rights historically, or, improve inequality between men and women, which will result in economic development.

The first thing that came to mind for me after reading this was China. Last year, I took Chinese Economy with Professor Smitka, and learned that although the economy has grown tremendously over the past several decades, women still suffer from inequality, which is illustrated in the skewed birth rates. Duflo later mentions this in her article, citing that although the economy has grown, the sex ratio has actually gotten worse, from 53% boys in 1970 to 57% boys in 1990.

It was very interesting that Duflo used this point in her article, and I believe it backs up her argument that countries should take the approach of first improving inequality in society, instead of growing the economy. This is because, as illustrated above, growing the economy does not always improve inequality; however, by first improving inequality, a country can significantly increase its productivity and output, resulting in economic growth and development, while improving the standards of living for women.

Walker Tiller

Duflo's paper discusses the inequality of Women especially within developing countries and the potential solutions to bringing equal opportunities to all women across the world. One idea Duflo discusses that interested me within the paper, is how there is a large gap between time spent at home from the men and women in each family. In particular, "The difference ranges from 30 percent more time spent on housework by women than men in Cambodia to six times more in Guinea, and from 70 percent more time for child care in Sweden to ten times more in Iraq." These numbers are incredibly large and measures should be taken in all these areas to provide better equality for women in the opportunities available. However, this also raise a conflicting argument for me. It seems that it does not matter how many equal opportunities are provided, I doubt this difference of time providing child care would ever be an exact 50/50 split among husband and wife. It is hard to deny that in almost all cultures children have a special bond with there mother and this most likely comes from the human nature and each person's dependence on their mother after birth. Because of this it seems right that mothers would often have a larger percentage of time spent at home with the children. Another alternative that some career focused couples have taken is to hire a nanny for both parents to focus on the market opportunities outside the house equally but is not feasible for all families worldwide.

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