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Ella Rose

This paper discusses the relationship between economic growth and gender equality. The author argues that having gender equality comes from both specific policies and economic development. One of these alone will not sufficient reduce the inequality for women.

I thought the authors point about economic policy empowering women was very enlightening. It is true that increase in income will reduce the prevalence of tragic choices and help increase the lifespan of the women in that community. However, the author never really expanded on way that was not sustainable. Obviously there is still inequality in the US, a very developed country. So why does it work at the beginning and not continue to work as the economy continues to grow? The author should have clarified that there are definitely huge diminishing returns to economic growth in terms of gender equality. In less developed countries, there are huge improvements because of a reduction in tragic choices. There are explicit economical reasons for gender discrimination that are very responsive to economic growth. Therefore at the very bottom incomes there can be huge change. However, this principles don't really for very long. I think the author could have done a better job distinguishing and explaining the diminishing returns as a cause needing both policy and economic growth to help women.

Also, in a philosophy class that I took last year, I read an article on the vulnerability of marriage. The section on marriage in this article really reminded me of the one I had read last year. Marriage puts women in a very vulnerable position, not because of marriage in and of itself, but because of the gender roles that are so often associated with it. From an early age girls are conditioned to prepare themselves for marriage. Even with career aspirations, women will just accept the fact that they will probably be mothers, and close themselves off to so many opportunities because of the expectations of marriage.There is so much more to be said on this subject, and that reading would go very nicely with this one.

Tony Du

A constant theme throughout development economics has been the idea of freedoms as both a means and an end. I find this tenant crucial to the discussion of the empowerment of women in developing countries. Dufflo stresses the idea that economic development alone is incapable of ensuring progress when it comes to women’s empowerment, specifically autonomous decision making. However, I also find Dufflo’s caution of the so called “magic bullet” to be an important step in approaching policy making and real world action. Dufflo notes that while “women’s empowerment leads to improvements in some aspects of children’s welfare” like health and nutrition, it also comes “at the expense of others”, namely education. She suggests that policies need to be examined from both a perspective of bringing about gender equality as well as the actual desirability (and costs) that come along with it. Dufflo believes that policy favoring women at the expense of men is a necessity in order to bring about gender equity. While this sounds like a hard pill to swallow for many, I agree with Dufflo’s assessment in that the trade-off made in the short term is worth the benefits to everyone in the long run. My only concern lies in the feasibility of asking half of the world’s population to make that sacrifice.

Charlotte Braverman

Duflo’s hesitation to promote female empowerment initiatives as a solution to economic development was at first at bit off-putting. After watching Sheryl WuDunn’s TED talk that so strongly supported the idea that empowering women is the key to development, I somewhat expected Duflo to advocate for a much more women-empowerment oriented approach. Instead, she presented a range of studies and many different sets of data, some of which supported the hypothesis that women empowerment facilitates economic development and other studies that maybe were not so conclusive.

While recognizing the interrelatedness of women empowerment and economic development, Duflo did not belabor the degree to which that women empowerment begets economic development. Instead, she presented a much more tempered viewpoint that argued both may generate mutually reinforcing effects, however, neither are the magic bullet.

Another part of the paper I found interesting though not terribly surprising was Dulfo’s argument that is it often the most financially disadvantaged families that are forced to make decisions that compromise the wellbeing of the women. Consequently, when families are a bit more secure and better able to meet their needs, the sacrifice of women’s wellbeing becomes more infrequent.

Within the context of Sen’s wellbeing and agency distinction, it seems possible that increasing a family’s income by just enough to lift them out of poverty, could significantly improve the welfare of women. However, in order to truly achieve gender equality and promote the agency of women, it will be essential to craft much more pointed policy that specifically targets women empowerment in the context of institutional law, educational and employment opportunities.

Matthew Sgro

In "Women Empowerment and Economic Development" Esther Duflo argues that the fight for women's equality should be looked at as more of a means to end poverty stricken countries. She argues that there should be policy in place to help women break free from this inequality. Therefore, the "empowerment of women further stimulates economic development" as Duflo succinctly puts it. Empowering women has a trickle down effect in the sense that it gives them more power in society which improves their household role - this than can have further benefits such as having less children (which as we have learned has far reaching society and economic benefits as Sheryl Wudunn described). This idea also rings true to me because I attended an all boys school in high school, which I loved, but when I got to W&L and started working in groups with women I realized they oftentimes thought about things differently than men truly adding value to discussions and adding a different scope of understanding. BUT some countries are still completely ignoring this great resource they already have in front of them. I also believe this is a phenomenon Americans think is only going on in other countries and we somewhat turn a 'blind-eye' to it. However, this problem is closer to home than we realize and it is imperative that we look at ways to improve the inequalities within our own countries.

-Professor Casey, I'm sorry I know we are supposed to have these written by 8ish but I had a couple interviews today, my two classes, and football and I literally had no other time to write it.

Jim Grant

I enjoyed reading Duflo’s arguments, I’m glad we got to see a snippet of her speak before reading this piece because her voice really came through the paper.
It’s shocking reading the results of these studies and the statistics and finding these disparities. How, for example, in sub-Saharan Africa, the mortality rate during childbirth is as bad as 1-31, where its 1-4100 in developing countries (which if you think about it is still pretty risky). Also in Iraq women work ten times as much for childcare as compared to men in contrast to Sweden’s 70 percent (classic Sweden). It’s also irksome to read a good case like India showed the difference in immunization rates between boys and girls to be 4.79 and 4.55. It’s clear that this is a huge improvement on other developing countries, but it shows that many countries have a lot or progress to make.
Incidentally, I found it amazing the various methods used to eliminate extraneous variables in the studies used in this paper. For example the monitoring of cost cuts on extra goods like cigarettes and alcohol to determine the “cost of a child” and the using that data to compare the male and female “costs” on a household. It shows how extensive Duflo is and I respect her work a lot as an economist.
When faced with the question of causality between development and empowerment a kind of “chicken egg” question, Duflo answers “both” with great analysis on both parts. From what we’ve read there seems to be such an inherent patriarchal response to poverty. When looking at these cases I look inward and also to countries like Sweden who excel in many aspects over the United States and who happen to have 43.55 percent of the parliamentary seats held by women (I stumbled upon this statistic while researching Sweden as a possible candidate for future permanent residency and thought of our last discussion about the senate). When looking at these extremes it’s very apparent the advantages of progressive policy on economics and how we can try to adapt that to work for other countries.

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