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The most interesting part of Duflo’s paper to me was the implications about the potential negative impacts economically and socially where young boys may actually see investment in their education decline with the empowerment of women or that certain public projects which are still important may be less valued by female leadership. While I have previously heard about the potentially benefits of educating, financing, and putting women into power, I had not considered the expense. Now, he goes on to suggest that these expenses may be negligible in the long run, but I think it is important from an ethical standpoint to consider that as a society, we should be trying to reach Pareto optimal solutions where no one is made worse off.
Furthermore, I am frequently surprised by the inefficiency by which individuals operate. Perhaps, I should stop being surprised that stubbornness and power dynamics outweigh logic, but the situation in many African countries, where resources are not properly allocated is still surprising. Giving equal resources to women’s plots in the family would benefit everyone as a whole, so I can only conclude that the social norms create men who are more self-possessed than even self-interested. The fact that self-interest cannot even drive movements towards equality is most concerning to me. I have taken enough economics courses that, as much as we may want it to be true, people are not rational, but I did believe that people are at least selfish from a consumption standpoint. If we cannot motivate men to value their own consumption capabilities through increasing their production, I am uncertain how we can make real lasting social change. My only hope is by having government enforced equality, such as leadership quotas. Hopefully, we will see attitudes changes like that in India where bias against female leadership was reduced.

Sarah Hollen

I appreciate Duflo’s realism and her measured approach to the supposed ‘virtuous circle’ of economic development and women’s empowerment and their mutual reinforcement leading to richer and more equal societies. I found the discussion of potential tradeoffs related to women’s empowerment intriguing, as I had never really thought about or read any literature that considers any such costs. Duflo argues that women’s empowerment may not be the ‘free lunch’ for development policy that many people believe it is, though she does maintain that gender equity is a desirable goal in and of itself. While she mentions that empowering women (e.g. through enacting policies such as representation quotas in government) can occur at the direct expense of men (e.g. the explicit consequence of having fewer men in leadership positions), Duflo argues that such policies are necessary because they allow the voices of women to be heard and their opinions to be represented, and may even shape people’s attitudes towards women in politics or leadership positions. Additionally, the decisions made by women or policies targeted at women often have positive effects on women and children, enhance efficiency, and increase the size of the economic pie. At the same time, Duflo argues toward the end of the paper, there are no magic bullets, and there may be costs associated with redistribution of power from men to women which must be accounted for. For example, she mentions improvement in child welfare through components like health and nutrition but at the expense of education. After reading this paper I understand Duflo’s cautious approach to this subject, but I would be interested to know more specifically about potential tradeoffs and costs related to women’s empowerment and to see more examples of how policies directed at (or implemented by) women may give rise to some economic inefficiency or may not be cost effective.

Gus Wise

Duflo's paper is interesting as it brings up points on economic development and women's empowerment that I had not previously thought of. As we have learned in class, women in developing countries often have less education and rights than men in the country. We have seen from Sen and others that simply educating and empowering women will have a direct positive impact on the economy and development. Duflo agrees with this but points out that empowering women may come at the cost of men. This is an interesting point, and I would think that the act of empowering women through education and equal opportunity would bring benefits to all that would exceed the theorized cost/ detriment to men. It’s an interesting counterpoint that I am not completely sure about.

On a different note, Duflo cites psychological studies that show implicit bias by both men and women on associating careers with a specific gender. Known as the “stereotype threat” the author discusses a study where they compared the scores on a math test between men and women after being told that women were worse at math/ would do no different than men on the test. It was interesting to see that women’s test scores changed based on what they were told beforehand and as the paper notes, the study suggests that this hinders gender equality. That particular study was from 1999, and I would think that there would be a change in that data today where the “stereotype threat” would play lesser role. All in all, I think Duflo’s article is interesting as it brings up new points on gender that I haven’t thought of before, but I think that more research should be done to see how her theories play out.

Christina Cavallo

Duflo’s paper brought up many interesting aspects of gender inequality and economic development. One of the most important points of this paper, I would argue, is the argument that “equality between women and men is a desirable goal in itself”. Yes, equality can have positive effects on society and accelerate development, but equality is intrinsically valuable in and of itself.
One thing that surprised me was that Ali et al. found that “there is no difference in the ways that girls and boys are treated by health practitioners once they reach the facility”. I don’t know the literature or have any real evidence to support my thinking, but I have heard conversations about unfair treatments that take place within doctors offices. I hope that this isn’t the case, but I would find it surprising if parents had biases towards which child gets treatment and doctors who are living in the same society as these parents didn’t have similar biases as to which child gets better treatment.
I also thought the topic of technology was interesting. In terms of sex-selective abortion and technology that enables that to even exist, I am curious to see if further technological advances will increase this inequality. When I was reading about this, I began to think about genetically altered embryos. Perhaps this technology would result in even more families choosing to have girls if they have the power to do so.
Also, the discussion of implicit bias was disappointing as well as interesting. It is difficult to make changes to problems that are so deeply, and implicitly, ingrained in us. While both men and women have these implicit biases, women are facing more of the repercussions. Spencer, Steele, and Quinn concluded that “girls have accepted and internalized the bias… and give up”. As the VP debate took place last night, I think it is especially important right now that we realize how different the perceptions are of men and women in political power. As the essay points out, many experiences have shown that, “holding performance constant, women leaders are evaluated more negatively than male leaders.” As seen with Kamala Harris, she has to continually stand up for herself and be overly cautious of making any kind of mistake.
I think the most ironic example of the inefficiency of gender inequality is Udry’s study of fertilizer use. In Burkina Faso, women have ownership of their own plots within their marriage, but couples purchase communal inputs, such as fertilizer, together. It is evident, though, than men’s plots are much more productive than women’s plots. This is due to more fertilizer used on men’s plots.
The effectiveness of using fertilizer, however, declines with how much is used. So, it would be better to use a little fertilizer on both women’s and men’s plots. Overall, this is not what is happening even though “household producing might increase by 6% just by reallocating the same amount of fertilizer and labor.” This is just one example of the inefficiency of gender inequality and clearly illustrates “the fact that women have insecure property right leads to sheer waste and literally makes families poorer".

Olivia Indelicato

I really enjoyed this paper and the ways it expanded on what we read in Sen’s paper and what we have discussed in class regarding the role of women. It is interesting the ways Duflo recognizes that economic development is not quite enough to achieve equality between men and women. This is obvious, given the differences in wages in developed countries such as the United States, which Duflo recognizes when she writes about the fact that women earn less at all qualification levels everywhere. I was shocked to read about how in many places, development and access to increased technology actually has the possibility of leading to further “missing women,” specifically in the rise of selective abortions in places where pregnancy care has increased. On the other hand, it is clear that increased access to technology in the form of pre-pregnancy and family planning can greatly benefit women in terms of fertility rates. The discussion of family planning vouchers was particularly interesting, and it seems somewhat strange that men are more likely to want more children, and that they would deny their wives from gaining access to contraceptives and birth control. It’s deeply saddening to read about how much the likelihood of using more “discrete” forms of family planning increases if the voucher is given outside the presence of the husband, and the dangers these women face if their husbands discover that they are using them. Additionally, I’ve found the discussion of women being murdered following accusations of “witchcraft” to be of particular interest, especially since I am from the neighboring town to Salem, MA, where the Salem Witch Trials took place. For a long time, the trials were attributed to a fungus in the wheat that caused the women to act strangely, but more recent research has shown that the cause of the trials was the “Little Ice Age” that caused crop failures and contributed greatly to the socioeconomic difficulties at the time. It is horrible, yet not that surprising that similar murders continue to take place today in many developing countries. It seems that in these cases, economic development would play a significant role in decreasing the number of witch killings. In terms of the policy instruments associated with empowering women, I was surprised to read about how women leaders often would not implement policies to empower other women. I also found Duflo’s assertions at the end a bit upsetting that policies will need to empower women at the expense of men, and that they will need to do so for a very long time. Especially given our current administration, it seems that these types of policies are unlikely even in the US. Obviously, I wish that there were one easy fix or “magic bullet” as Duflo writes in her concluding paragraph, but it is clear that not only in developing but also in developed countries, we have a long way to go when it comes to reaching equality between men and women.

Mason Shuffler

The idea that really stood out to me from Duflo's article is the idea that empowerment and development are not everything to achieve gender equality. Instead, nations need continuous public policy in order to move toward equal rights. This seems to make sense, as even in some of the most developed nations in the world (such as the US), there is still prevalence of gender discrimination in different areas such as the wage gap. This goes to show that development of nations is not everything in terms of achieving gender equality. Perhaps the most significant contributor to achieving economic and social equality between men and women is the importance of education. Having an educational system in which women have equal access to high quality education as men creates a society where women are able to contribute to the household, economy, etc. It is also interesting to me how when women gain higher amounts of human capital through education, men tend to be more willing to give up some rights to women. The main reason being, as Duflo states, that children get better educated as a result of the increase in human captial. I would argue that this is also attributable to the fact that women are able to contribute more to household income when they attain more human capital, and as a result the household is better off economically. In the end, it is evident that although development and empowerment are interrelated, it is overwhelmingly apparent that these two concepts are not everything in achieving gender equality. Gender equality ultimately comes down to policy that is both legislated and enforced by the government. Without enforcement, there is little hope for a more equal society.

Julia Foxen

I agree with Duflo’s thesis that while improving women’s role in society may lead to greater economic development, and while development may drive down inequality between women and men, the ultimate key to female empowerment will be to take policy actions that “favor women at the expense of men” (1076). When a certain group of people have been systematically oppressed throughout history, it is the role of policymakers to reverse such injustice even if this makes certain groups uncomfortable or at temporary disadvantage. Duflo states that this is a measure of realism that must occur at either end of the empowerment and development debate. Interestingly, Duflo’s thesis greatly reminds me of the argument for affirmative action in the US. The argument states that due to our nation’s systemically racist history, policymakers today have an obligation to uplift Black Americans. The act of uplifting one group, even if it comes at the expense of another, seeks to create equity in society where there was none before.
Furthermore, I also completely agree with Duflo’s argument that women empowerment is intrinsically good and does not have to be coupled with any economic development for it to be desirable. However, I wonder how this belief can be advanced without the economic lens in societies that still largely lack many of the fundamental cornerstones that reap respect for women. How powerful can this moral argument be in regions that are already so ingrained in their ways?

Sydney Goldstein

Something that Duflo’s article got me thinking about was how do we empower women and expand their opportunities and capabilties but without producing a cost to men. In Duflo’s article, she discusses the tradeoffs that exist between female empowerment and costs to men. This is something I found very interesting because I think it is somewhat of a taboo topic that many are reluctant to discuss. This may be because some fear female empowerment would be limited if there were perceived costs to men, which isn’t an invalid concern, but none the less I think it is important to discuss all aspects of female empowerment. But, female empowerment has value not only in development but also intrinsic value from a moral and ethical standpoint that push its benefits beyond potential tradeoffs (at least in my opinion). Most of the tradeoffs mentioned were that there would be less men in leadership positions or politics, which I think one could make the argument that these positions are in fact overly saturated by men (specifically white, older men) thus an equalizer is needed even if it has the cost of removing some men from politics and leadership positions. Duflo argues (and I agree), that polices that equalize representation of women in the workplace and in politics are imperative because they allow for women’s voices to be heard. There is value in that alone because even though a male could fight on behalf of women’s issues, he can only do so from a male’s perspective which is inherently limited to the scope of being a male. Thus, in order for females to truly be represented I’d argue that we need a female perspective, someone that understands the world and its issues as they pertain to females from a female perspective. Now granted not all females think exactly the same (just as not all males think the same), but I think a female perspective even in its most general sense can relate more closely to females than a male trying to take on a female perspective. To give a metaphor to hopefully clarify the point I’m trying to make, it is similar the the controversy over American Dirt. American Dirt is a novel about Mexican immigrants written by a non-Mexican white woman. Her critics state they even though there is some value in her writing in that it got a conversation started about immigration, it lacks authenticity because it is written from the perspective of a white person who can’t speak to what it is like being a Mexican immigrant. The same applies to woman’s issues. Men can speak on them and raise awareness, but they will never have an authentic view as to how these issues impact women purely because they aren’t women. For this reason alone it is crucial for women to have a voice. To bring this back into economics, the decisions made by women, which would be a product of female representation and autonomy, and/or policies that empower women tend to have positive effects on women and children, enhancing overall efficiency and increasing the size of the economic pie. Which, in turn, is good for development and thus everyone.

Frances McIntosh

This paper ultimately (possibly pessimistically) decides that we cannot focus solely on women’s empowerment nor economic development. They are cyclical, so focusing on one aspect will change the other; however, important parts of women’s empowerment are not included when solely focused on development and not all aspects of development are improved when only focusing on the empowerment of women.
One thing that I found interesting about this study is how they established proxies, in particular the cost of a child. They looked at the change in household consumption of “adult goods,” (cigarettes, alcohol, or adult clothing) when a child is born as an indirect estimate of the “cost” of the child. The more the consumption of adult good drops, the more expensive a child is. I just thought this was a very creative way to establish a variable that is hard to gather data for.
When mentioning how economic development empowers women, there was one thing that especially surprised me. I understood how development created jobs, but I had never thought about how development opens jobs that are “suitable” for women in countries with traditional views. Although I think it is still a bit judgmental for men to find a job “unsuitable” for a women, this is still a way for society to become increasingly comfortable with women in the labor force, ultimately allowing women to gain empowerment.
“Thus, policies that explicitly favor women need to be justified, not just in terms of being necessary to bring about gender equality, but in terms of gender equality itself being desirable and worth the cost it implies” This quotes is something that I had never thought about before. I am a proponent of gender equality, but I have never really thought about justifying why equality is itself desirable. I think Sen’s notion of missing women is a great way to justify the need for equality and why equality is worth the price. Before this class, I had never thought about gender inequality in terms of mortality rates or missing women. Thinking about missed opportunities as not only missed opportunities within one’s life but as missing life in general is powerful. Now I have a new, wider perspective on equality.

Bridget Bartley

On page 1057, Duflo writes “If women do not work outside the home, there may be a perception that they do not need to be as strong and healthy and that they do not need a formal education.” This sentence was really hard hitting in my opinion. Up until now, we have talked about the interconnectedness of all of the Millennial Development Goals which later led to the Sustainable Development Goals. We have talked about the Multidimensional Poverty Index that has many overlapping and intertwining characteristics to its measurement methodology. Duflo ties this all together beautifully. Off the bat, she points out that “There is a bidirectional relationship between economic development and women’s empowerment defined as improving the ability of women to access the constituents of development—in particular health, education, earning opportunities, rights, and political participation” (1053). From there on out, the multidimensional connections she makes continue on. Upon finishing this reading, I mainly wonder if Duflo herself is seen as less superior to male economists? Despite her groundbreaking work, does she still face gendered inequalities in her field?

Katie Timmerman

Like some of my classmates, an aspect of this paper that stood out to me was on the topic of stereotypes surrounding men and women. Although we’ve talked in this class about the danger of attributing economic failures to culture, I would argue that certain attitudes and beliefs play a significant role in development (specifically Sen's definition of development as freedom). Sen also wrote about the importance of allowing a nation/group to decide for themselves between a potential trade-off between certain values and development. That can be seen when considering women empowerment. Both men and women throughout history have been susceptible to justifying a relative absence of agency and wellbeing for women. Thinking back to our discussion on education, clearly the best way to change discriminatory attitudes toward women and their abilities is to educate both men and women (boys and girls), of course in relevant skills etc. to increase the confidence and knowledge of girls, but also in regards to the rights of these girls and women. I’m sure there are other factors at play and humans are not always rational- but taking the witch accusations as an example, it seems very likely that an educated youth would be less likely to attribute disasters and misfortune to elderly women, following a more scientific mode of thought. Obviously, large scale quality education would benefit women in other situations. Also mentioned by Prof. Casey, it has been observed that even simply posting a visible statement promoting inclusion on a specific occasion showed a correlation with a decrease in instances of harassment/disinclusion. The more that men and women are taught and shown that women are capable, the more the freedoms of women will grow.


Women’s Empowerment and Economic Development by Esther DuFlo emphasizes the relationship that the two factors both have a dual causality or bidirectional relationship. While empowerment catalyzes development, to reiterate as those above me have mentioned, economic development alone is not sufficient enough to elevate women to an ‘equal’ status alongside male counterparts. She addresses such issues later in the paper in mention, “It increases the ability—distinct from will—of households to withstand crises and the ability of governments to insure their poorest citizens against sickness and hunger” All to say, even a direct influx of attention to attend to development within a society will not guarantee equality. Policy action on both fronts must occur to enact true change. Duflo references Kofi Annan, who for example, has argued that “achieving gender equality is a “prerequisite” to achieving the other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).” This is a logical progression considering that in order to truly activate agency, women must first be granted the ability to actualize their well-being. A compelling argument to persuade the hesitant to enhance and support women’s empowerment would be to include that just as extreme inequality is generally viewed as unfair so is gender inequality. Using John Rawls “veil of ignorance”, considering the disparities with healthcare access, childbirth and childcare, education, and other essential sectors, facing this kind of risk, no one would voluntarily choose womanhood. If the degree of equality had no effect on the quality of life most people would vote for nearly perfect equality among genders. Lastly, I found it interesting that, “If families expend fewer resources on girls, for example, if girls are given less to eat than boys, then the adults will cut their consumption of adult goods by a smaller amount when they have an extra girl than when they have an extra boy.” Ultimately, this fact and the entire article displays gender bias toward males and anti-female sentiments are based on misinformation and poor logic.

carrie morrison

Duflo's article displayed how beneficial woman's empowerment is for a country and families economic development. However, across developed and developing nations it seems that women are still suffering from biases that lead to inefficiency in households and for the country. As mentioned by Emma is seems men are more concerned with their own self interests. For example, for men, it seems there is a lack of investment in children. In the article Duflo discusses varying ways in which improving equality for women benefits the children. Two that stuck out to me was that there is a higher correlation with mother's education levels and child health than for the father and that women are more concerned with policies that impact child health and nutrition. Children's health and education levels are an investment in their future and the overall wellbeing of the economy, so it is shocking to me that this correlation seems to be present.

Another aspect of Duflo's article that stood out to me was the role that economic development played in increasing a woman's empowerment. However, she mentions that even with more development, biases still impact how much more equal women are to men. There is a bias towards which jobs are deemed "suitable" for a woman and a disparity in the earnings in even richer countries. Moreover, Duflo mentions the importance of women participation in politics, but these biases create barriers for women to become policy makers. This leads me to wonder how policies that equalize women and men in society are to be put into place with these strong biases present.

John Lavette

Duflo’s paper provides a general discussion and review of literature women empowerment and economic development. The beginning of the paper considers the relationship between economic development and the health and treatment of women and concludes that even a focus on economic development would disproportionally benefit women. This reminded me of a point of discussion in Wednesday’s class. We discussed how the causality flows both ways. Economic development can provide greater empowerment for women which can then provide greater growth as a significant part of the population reach a greater potential. However, Duflo discusses the fact that economic development will not provide enough growth to efficiently change discrimination. Despite this, policy makers have a very straightforward path to success but still focus primarily on a single side of the coin. Gender-blind policies have the ability to greatly increase welfare not only for women but for the entire population. There are obviously also major inherent value in providing liberties to a large portion of a population. These policies also have the added benefit of impacting social behavior in households, pushing them towards gender neutrality. These transitions can allow greater female participation through lowering fertility rates and increasing age at marriage and first child. As participation increases, women have more decision making power within the household and government which can further shape policy decisions.

Savannah Corey

I found this paper extremely enlightening in the way that Duflo juxtaposed the causation of women's empowerment on economic development and vice versa. The element that fascinated me the most in this paper was that policies targeting towards increasing women's decision making are integral for economic development because of the immense amount of positive externalities they have. Allowing women to possess control over more resources and attain higher levels of education not only benefits the individual women, but increases the health and quality of life of their children, the efficiency of their households, and the economic pie of the developing country. Moreover, James Wolfensohn, former World Bank President, reiterates the broader societal outcomes that result from the "catalytic effect" of increasing educational attainment for girls, "This, in turn, will change the way societies will deal with problems and raise the quality of global decision-making." However, Wolfensohn seems to ignore the implicit bias seen in many developing countries towards female leaders and policy makers. I am familiar with Duflo's experiment where female and male actors recite an identical political speech, where the male's speech is largely preferred; however, not until this article did I think about the deeper issues associated with it. It begs that question, even if women achieve higher levels of education, higher paying jobs, and more political leadership, will the traditional gender biases that prevail in many developing countries inhibit women from making dramatic social, economic, and political change? I think the only way to find out is for these governments to pass legislation that will allow women to achieve greater mobility, and consequently ascertain political leadership positions, especially due to the piece of staggering evidence that Duflo reveals: "In places where no woman had ever been the local leader, 86 percent of parents wanted their daughters to be either a housewife or whatever their in-laws would decide for her (the corresponding fraction was below 1 percent for the boys). This exemplifies the need for female leadership to shatter the traditional stereotype that confines girls to homemaking. Although female empowerment is not the "magic bullet" that encompasses all the world's poverty issues, legislation that focuses on providing women in developing countries more educational opportunities will posses external effects that will benefit all of society.

Hayden Ludt

The topic of missing women is a development economic topic that I find incredibly interesting. The numbers are astonishing but the reasons are also fascinating. Some numbers that stood out are 6 million women a year, 23% are never born because of selective abortion, 10% more are dead during early childhood through domestic decisions (i.e. preferential treatment of education, food, and health services to boys over girls), 21% are lost during their reproductive years through issues of maternal mortality rates, and lastly 38% are represented by women over the age 60. The ideological framework I was reading this paper with was Sen's development framework of economic development can be represented by increasing choices. The two way relationship talked about is very interesting. It mentions that economic development and women's empowerment defined as improving the ability of women to access the constituents of development. These areas of development are health, education, earning opportunities, rights, and political participation. The most interesting part of this is that some governments choose to focus on only one end of the relationship. They will work towards equality without also working to improve the economy or they will choose to focus on economic development which will increase all's quality of life but doesn't necessarily work to remove the inequality of men and women. Using Sen's development framework I believe that education is the most important thing to improve women's economic and equality. With increasing quality and opportunity of education, women will have the tools to not only pull themselves out but also their children.

Danny Lynch

For me, the most interesting parts of this paper were the mentions of bargaining power within a household and how changes in relative power could positively affect outcomes (such as for the children in the family). Specifically, I was glad when the author mentioned how increasing a woman’s education and her chances of joining the labor force could increase her bargaining power. Last year in my Labor Economics course, I wrote my term paper on intra-household time allocation during the Great Recession, focusing on changes in relative bargaining power. One of the coolest findings in that paper was that for recently unemployed individuals who were single, the majority of time reallocated from working went towards time-intensive leisure, and very little additional time went towards household production. Conversely, recently unemployed married individuals allocated over twice as much of their new-found free time towards household production. This clearly shows a change in bargaining power: because the unemployed individual had a low opportunity cost to working around the house (due to having no wage), they had low bargaining power and took on more household work. I was excited to see the connection between the two papers. The second most interesting part of this paper for me was how increases in development can, in some ways, lead to higher gender inequality because technology can lower the cost of discrimination. That’s a crazy notion because it is something I never would have thought of and yet it makes perfect sense from an economic perspective. An individual who benefits from discriminating also faces costs, and if better technology decreases the costs, they’re going to discriminate more.

Adelaide Burton

Duflo’s argument thoroughly addresses the arguments for women’s empowerment related to economic development. Women’s empowerment as a driver for development, and development increases women’s empowerment, but this isn’t necessarily a continuous loop. Policy makers have to decide whether to proactively promote women’s rights, independence, autonomy, ect through policy or to focus on economic development and let women’s empowerment follow suit. Interestingly, many male dominated legislative groups and economists make the latter argument, and neglect to address women’s rights directly. Duflo compares the two perspectives and concludes that both are necessary to promote women’s equality and agency.
What surprised me from the table of indicators was that labor force participation has only increased 2% since the 1980s. Duflo and Sen described the almost universal cultural pressure for women to be wives and mothers rather than workers, and, ultimately, this is still the prevailing notion today. Women who chose to enter the workforce are made to choose between children and a career (even if that isn't truly the only options), and if they choose a career they are faced with workplace sexism, unfair wages, and hiring discrimination. It's not surprising that women aren’t joining in higher numbers if the environment of many industries is still built on a sexist culture. This is a prime example of the argument for policy promoting women’s rights: although economic development may increase women’s opportunities for employment, without policy against workplace harassment, hiring practices, and a cultural shift, women still are at a disadvantage. Of course, the choices that women face in poverty are extremely different than those of more developed countries. Where an educated woman might choose to study art instead of banking because of internalized misogyny and early childhood discouragement, women living in poverty have to face choices of eating and starving, providing healthcare for themselves or their children. Without an income, women remain dependent on their partners, and cannot likely improve their station. Income and economic development are not sufficient to improve women’s agency without political action to ensure an equal social standing to men.

Jack Parham

Duflo does a fantastic job looking at how development and women’s empowerment can help produce gender equality in all aspects of life. I enjoyed how Duflo was skeptical of both of these phenomena. In the end, we see that neither pure economic development nor a drastic change towards women’s rights will completely solve the issue of gender equality. What we need is careful, continuous contemplation of policies for many years to come. In reading the paper I found that Duflo successfully described the ways in which economic development compounds into gender equality. One of the statistics that stuck out to me had to do with life expectancy. There was an estimate that, “every year of increase in life expectancy leads to an increase in years of education of girls (relative to boys) of 0.11 of a year. This creates two ways for economic development to potentially improve the relative welfare of women: by reducing the chance that they die at each childbirth, and because economic development goes hand in hand with a reduction in fertility.” This was one example that really stood out to me. Development means compounding benefits for women. This circle of virtuous development is certainly something to promote. However, Duflo makes it clear that development is not the final answer to the equation. I think this is a point that is not made often enough. Especially in a developed country such as the United States, we must recognize that there is still so much work to be done towards gender equality. Pure economic development is not and will never be enough. Policy that is created by and benefits women is necessary in facilitating gender equality.

Austin Lee

One of the studies that Duflo talks about in the paper is the “stereotype threat”. In this experiment, the subjects were given male and female names. If they thought the name resembled a female’s name they would place the name in the right column. If the name resembled a male’s name it would be placed in the left column. They followed the same process for random words. The words that invoked a career or job were typically placed on the left-hand side (with the male names), and family-oriented words were placed on the right side (with the female names). This subconscious stereotype is prevalent in today’s society even in the U.S. A similar study was done with hiring managers of companies. If the name resembled an African American’s name, they were immediately taken off the list of suitable job applicants. Subconscious stereotypes similar to these two examples threaten full equality, whether that be gender equality or race equality. Moreover, it is interesting to see how Duflo’s paper will influences policy and if potential policy implications can bring a start to ending these “stereotype threats”.

Andrew Frailer

Duflo's paper on the empowerment of women leads to some key insights on how we evaluate true development. When we talked about the MDGs and SDGs, one of my main takeaways was that in order for any of the goals to be achieved, all of them would have to be achieved. I think this shows us one of the most concrete examples of this. We can do all of the things which the models tell us to do in order to experience economic growth, but unless we have truly informed policy decisions, we will not be able to have true equality. A huge implication of this, as mentioned in the paper, is that women empowerment is a means and an end. it is an end because it is simply morally right thing to treat all equal, but it is a means because when women are not empowered, just think of all of the innovative brainpower and productive capability that we are missing out on as a society. Another one of the things that I thought as I was reading this was the terrible example set by the developed world, specifically the United States. It is easy for us to sit here and complain about how the developing world does not empower their women enough, but we having already developed (in one sense of the word) still are not doing enough to lead to equality. We are in 2020 and women still earn less than 80% of what men do for the same job. since the developed world has taken so much from the developing through exploitation or colonialism, we owe it to them to at least be a perfect example of what true equality looks like. One of the saddest things mentioned was the sex selective abortions in developing countries. This is the greatest violation of freedom in Sen's view (On a random side note which I am just now thinking of, would Sen object to all abortion since it is depriving life? or would the interpretation be different based on the circumstances). The problem here is that in the developing world, parents have to choose between, in some cases such as India, raising a daughter, who will not provide much in an economic way, yet still cost the poor family a tremendous amount in dowry, or just have a relatively cheap abortion. This for me highlighted how interconnected all of these issues were. How do we decrease sex selective abortion? well, we are going to have to, among other things, make the women future potential better. And how do we do this? by pursuing policy that promotes various rights to women. For me, as is one of the main conclusions of the paper, the importance of policy can not be understated. If we want to live in a world where we see equality and development of poor countries, we are going to have to have governments who take the lead with reforming policy targeted at women.


In this paper, Duflo discusses the interesting, yet complicated empowerment–development relationship. She details and provides the evidence found in literature for how, in one direction, economic development and the reduction of poverty reduces gender inequality and can improve the welfare of women. On this side, economic development helps reduce poor households’ vulnerability to crises and other tough decisions which normally disproportionately affect women. Additionally, economic development and rising incomes reduce fertility and maternal mortality, which both directly improve the welfare of women and incentivize educational investment for girls since their life expectancies increase. From this side of the relationship, there is evidence that gender-blind policies that aim to reduce poverty and improve the welfare of households will result in greater gender equality. Duflo also discusses that on the other side, women’s empowerment can promote and drive economic development. From this side, the empowerment of women and increasing gender equality is necessary for economic development and policies specifically targeted at improving the condition of women should be adopted. In reality, economic development and increasing household income are not, by themselves, sufficient to empower women, improve the conditions of women, and reduce gender inequality. At times, policies targeted toward women will come at the expense of men, but women’s empowerment changes outcomes to ones that are beneficial women, households, and society at large.

Eric Schleicher

It is strange to read about the objective state of the world when it is not in equilibrium, when you know that billions of individuals out there in the world are impoverished or discriminated against. In this case, Duflo provides a stark picture of the extent of some of the gender discrimination that is present throughout the world, particularly in developing nations. I was struck throughout the paper by the fact that of course there is policy-based and cultural discrimination and inequity toward women, but there is also the balance of life and death for many families that requires them to make sacrifices and occasionally put the health and survival of a family member on the line. When this happens, women and girls are often discriminated against, and it can be difficult to truly wrap my mind around the human experience when families are put in these positions. I find it difficult to believe that there is a lack of love, but rather as Duflo demonstrates, families weigh the expectations that women may typically fill in developing nations and decide that when the situation is dire, they may choose to invest more in boys. No family should have to consider the expected outcomes of their children and decide which life is more valuable. I found many points frustrating and saddening throughout this paper because I know that as a global society, we can have the collective consciousness to treat everyone equally. To my previous point, an example of the inequity experienced by young girls and health outcomes is how Duflo mentioned that in New Delhi slums, young girls die from diarrhea at a rate twice that of boys. Anyone who loves their family and friends can imagine themselves in the position of a family who has to make a decision of what family member to provide food and medical resources to. Although, in light of all this, Duflo enlightens us to the idea though that there are two significant pathways that through diverse action, the gender inequality that is seen in so many areas around the world can be lessened and eventually eradicated. As she displays, we need to bring countries out of poverty and provide the economic and labor opportunities proper to cultivating a society in which women can thrive. But we also need to make significant action in addressing the gender inequality that has existed throughout history and empower women through education, policy, and further diverse opportunities.

Didi Pace

As we spoke about last class, we should not wait for GDP to rise to focus on women's agency because agency is an ends in of itself. Women's agency enhances and accelerates economic growth. Yet, even if it precluded economic growth, the focus on agency should still be there because doing so is a focus on basic human rights.

The most salient point from this article is that economic development alone will not be enough. Growth will not be enough to overcome discrimination in a number of domains, including lower wages. Gender pay disparities extend into both developed and developing countries. For example, while at varying levels of development, the US and Ghana both suffer from similar wage gap problems. From my econometrics project, gender stereotypes and gender specific roles are prevalent in Ghana, thereby men and women with equal education attainment do not receive equal payment. There is a decrease of 43.48 PPP dollars per week for females in comparison to their male counterparts in Ghana. A significant wage gap exists and a glass ceiling effect for women persists, which ultimately implies the potential for social welfare benefit from government intervention. These interventions that favor women are better for everyone in the long run, which is important to recognize. A long run mentality is necessary to the sustainability of development.

Jay Walton

One of the most fascinating topics discussed in the paper was healthcare and the distribution of services between boys and girls. The US is embroiled in a debate about “universal healthcare”, a buzzword toted by politicians and late night TV hosts alike. However, when comparing the healthcare within this country to that of a developing nation we see the blessing we are fortunate enough to have. I never considered the difficulty surrounding the collection of data for this topic, most underdeveloped nations lack HIPPA (or similar) so accessing the records seemed straight forward. I found the lack of data based evidence surprising, leading me to wonder whether there is an entire subset of the population being missed. As noted in the piece “It is, of course, very difficult to observe whether, for example, girls are given less to eat than boys, since households under observation are likely to change their behavior”. The paper cites several studies like “(Khanna et al. 2003)” which point to increased mortality rates in the poorest neighborhoods of women when compared to men; however it appeared to only be speculation as to the cause. I believe this to be a somewhat cyclical circumstance: there is a direct correlation between involving women in the economy and society but those nations in poverty are less likely to willingly bring the women in. Begging the question, which is an open end on in my opinion, how can an outside nation best assistance in breaking this horrendous cycle?

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