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Duflo’s focus on familial structures itself is something I had not considered before. The comparison between treatment of boys and girls within the household, revealing differences in treatment not simply at the societal level, was devastating to read. The statistics showing that poor households are less inclined to spend money a girl’s illness than a boy’s and are more inclined to discriminate against vulnerable women than men in times of crises illustrates how a focus on implementing gender-blind policies with a poverty reduction aim would improve women’s standards of living twofold as compared to men. Additionally, because there is such discrimination at the household level, it is not necessarily surprising that such discrimination persists including high rates of sex-selective abortions and an overall male preference even in economically developed countries. Further in the piece, Duflo emphasizes that structural shifts to giving women more power as decision-makers within the family can be beneficial for the family as a whole as seen in improvements in child health. In conclusion, though Duflo places a significant amount of emphasis on the fact that promoting women’s empowerment and gender equality is not enough to fully eliminate bias, policies geared toward promoting equality in institutions should not be discredited, and Duflo even states that this improvement can achieve many other MDG’s while bringing about economic development.

Claire Jenkins

Duflo's paper about women's empowerment brings up many interesting and insightful points about gender inequality and development. In class, we have constantly talked about how empowering women, especially through increasing their access to education, will have extreme benefits to society as a whole. Investing in women's education will have great social benefits for the world; positive externalities are associated with improving women's access to education, increasing economic and political opportunities, and increasing their autonomy. Duflo reiterates this idea in her paper. She explains that women play a fundamental role in development. Not only is it equitable to promote policies that level the playing field for women, but it will have "beneficial consequences on many other society-wide outcomes," as well as improve efficiency. One piece of the paper that I found very interesting was the mention of micro-credit schemes. Duflo points out that, "Micro-credit schemes, for example, have been directed almost exclusively at women, because, it is argued, women invest the money in goods and services that improve the well-being of families, in goods that are conducive to development." This stood out to me because it is something that I recently learned about in my Behavioral Economics course this semester. We learned that in societies that value women equally, if not more, than men, there is better provision of public goods. I think this point just goes to show, yet again, that investing in women and giving them the same opportunities as men would have positive societal benefits.

In addition, I think that Duflo did a great job presenting the facts as they are. I really appreciated the realism that she incorporated into her paper. Duflo recognizes and points out that promoting equality for women and targeting development policy towards women can come at the expense of men. For example, she brings up that giving more leadership positions to women, through a quota system for example, will be consciously taking away opportunities for men. She allows the readers to recognize that there are trade-offs that come with these kind of policies aiming to help women. However, in my opinion, these types of policies are necessary; they are worth these trade-offs. In our world today where women have been continually suppressed and viewed as subordinates and "lesser than," uplifting women through policies that promote empowerment as crucial, even when they come at the expense of men; the injustice and inequality that has been present for hundreds of years needs to come to an end. Women deserve to have equal opportunities and access in society, as well as have their voices be heard and valued just as much as men. There needs to be a redistribution of "power" in our world so that women and men are seen as equals. While Duflo explains that women's empowerment is not the "magic bullet" for development policy, it is a major stepping stone.

Ben Barbour

I thought this paper was really well written and went over some aspects of women and development that I had not thought of before. In addition, this paper has a lot of studies that are related to other aspects of our class. For example, in the South Korean paper we read earlier, it was stated that empowering and investing in women helped a lot for their development. It also followed the idea of inequality where even if both men and women can receive greater outcomes by investing in human capital, the gap of inequality can remain the same. I think I agree with the author in his conclusion that neither women's empowerment or economic development are the magic bullets, since there are no magic bullets for development in any form. However, I think that some steps can be taken to decrease the amount of inequality that has persisted for so many years. Generally, the authors did a great job finding different studies and areas, and although using to many regressions and studies can cloud a paper, they did a great job explaining each thoroughly before moving onto their next point. It is a bit depressing that inequality persists, especially the abortion statistics in India and China, but I think that with the right policies there could be a change for the better.

Ella Hall

The reading discusses the importance of women having political influence in order for policy decisions to reflect the preferences of and to benefit women in the community. One way that some countries ensure that women are a part of the decision-making process is by having reserved seats in office that have to be filled by women. This is a good policy because it ensures that women have a voice in policy decisions, and evidence presented in the paper show that the types of projects women chose to fund and policies they support are different than those chosen by men. However, I am curious about the social implications if the political race for the seats held by women and those held by men become separate. I wonder if by having a female race and a male race, it is reinforcing the idea that women cannot compete against men politically and gives the impression that a separate race and these designated seats needed to be created to give women a chance. I do not know if there is any evidence to show that this stigma would occur, but it is an unintended consequence I think could occur. It also could be argued that it still might be worth it. Even if some people think women needed their own, inferior race the reserved seats still ensures women have an influence on policy decisions which is most important and could likely lead to changes in social stigma as well.

Brad Stephenson

The connection between disparate spending on male and female children and opportunities in education is an interesting one since it shows a certain society’s motivation to develop the female individuals in their communities. The article studies the possible reduced spending of parents on adult goods depending on whether they have a male or female child. The findings were inconclusive with no differences in spending patterns among parents depending on the gender of the child. This is interesting because education enrollment rates are still quite drastic between male and female students in developing countries. I would assume that the lack of enrollment of girls in primary and secondary schools in developing countries would be related to the cost of education, which begs the question “why is spending on education different than food or healthcare?” I believe that parents may see spending on education as optional, meaning when the family faces economic hardship, female children are taken out of school first. This point is supported by the paper’s finding that disparities in spending in households come, most of the time, from economic hardship. This means that the poverty within the country greatly contributes to the lack of education among women and that the family unit cares and pays for both male and female children similarly. It might be cultural or historical narratives instead that explain the low female enrollment rates in developing country schools. Because of historical patterns of focusing on educating men, women are the first to be taken out of schools. To close this gap, economic development and the alleviation of poverty must take place, or else women will be stuck in a poverty trap where they are unable to get educated.

Grace Owens

It was interesting to me that this issue was specifically tied into the MDGs that we discussed previously in class as the Secretary General of the United Nations argued that achieving gender equality is a “prerequisite” to achieving the other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The first bit of information that really stood out to me was the proven fact that girls are less likely to be treated during illnesses than boys in countries where there is a disparity between genders. Especially given that the treatment of both girls and boys is the same after they reach a treatment facility, it is disappointing to me that their welfare is valued less than boys. This also ties into instances when there is a drought and boys are prioritized over girls to the extent that the mortality rate among girls increases. Families cannot afford to feed everyone and they blatantly will choose to feed the boys over the girls. Reading about how the increase in tea production and harvesting was also notable to me about how women are better suited to work and harvest tea, which is beneficial for the increase in women working and therefore better outcomes for women, in general.

Valerie Sokolow

I really enjoyed this paper and thought it reaffirmed many of the things we’ve been learning in class. Duflo recommends taking policy actions that favor women at the expense of men. Similar to many other policies, fighting for policies that favor women at the expense of men would be a consistently uphill battle. Duflo recognizes this and says that the way to promote these policies would be to outline the potential benefits of instituting a policy like this. However, it will still be difficult to promote policies without using any hard evidence. This reveals a circular process in how these policies would be put into effect. People won’t want to institute policies without any hard evidence, but to get hard evidence, we need to put the policies into practice. This sort of loop reminds me of the Big Push theory and makes me wonder if a similar concept could be applied in women-promoting policies. Furthermore, because men have consistently been seen as a higher gender in history and may cultures and religions, instituting a policy that promotes women at the expense of men will be even more difficult. Duflo does a good job outlining these obstacles and makes a strong case for taking policy actions that favor women. As she outlines, promoting women will eventually help the economy as a whole, making everyone better off.

Claire Kallen

This article was a very interesting read. As a young woman, it is hard to imagine being treated in the manner described throughout this article. It was very interesting to see that even though women are a huge asset to the economy that they are still not allowed to enter the work force in many countries. What is interesting to me is how poor young girls are treated. The fact that abortion rates are much higher for girls than for boys because families don’t want to raise girls just to have to marry them off later. Girls are not given a chance and this starts even before they are born.
Young girls are ignored in many families; they are fed less and many of them do not receive as much of a formal education as young boys. This so frustrating to read for me, girls are not given a fair chance yet it is proven that empowering these young women will result in economic growth.
Although this article is hard to read, it is still important to know what is happening in many countries. Even in developed countries the wage gap and sociality normals tell young girls that they are not enough and it is so important to change that way of thinking. This article proves that girls are in fact the key to economic growth and development so they should be treated in-line with that truth.

Matt Condon

This paper by Esther Duflo does a fantastic job of demonstrating the massive range of impacts that gender equality can have on a country in any stage of development. However, the one topic that I found most interesting was the involvement of women in politics, as this is an area that needs improvement in developing and developed countries alike. Duflo discusses some “top-down” approaches that have had promising results when tried, such as establishing a quota for women in parliamentary positions. The main question that I kept asking myself while reading these sections of this paper was regarding how we go about getting these top-down policies passed through current legislatures. Duflo states that it will be necessary to take policy actions that benefit women at the cost of men in the short run. However, these very men that will often have to bear this short-run cost are the ones disproportionately making policy. How do we get people in power to look beyond the short run issues to focus on long run benefits? In this discussion, I see striking similarities to issues of passing climate change policy in the US. For example, imposing a tax on carbon is empirically proven to be beneficial in the long run, but because it involves a “tax” that some voter bases may not like, it poses an obstacle for re-election for politicians. For this reason, some politicians are unwilling to look beyond short-run obstacles that would have negative impacts on their political careers for the long-run benefits of their community. The same could be said for male politicians who would be largely unwilling to implement a quota for women in Congress, as it would be their spots in Congress that are being threatened. Due to this predicament, bottom-up approaches, such as closing the education gap, seem to be the most feasible way of combating the gender gap in politics. But bottom-up approaches have been in action for some time now, and the fact that we still have a gap in political representation may indicate the need for broader, sweeping reforms from the top-down. I would be very curious to hear more about the gender quota case study from India mentioned by Duflo in this paper, especially regarding how they were able to get that quota policy passed in the first place.

Teddy Bentley

I think this article did a great job at looking into discrepancies between boys and girls. There were a lot of aspects of life that Duflo explored that I had never really thought of. I thought he did a great job at just looking at the basic issues like mortality rate to try to get an idea of what is going on behind the scenes. It was interesting that he looked into vaccination rates in India to try to see if girls were treated differently than boys. It doesn’t make much sense that girls are more likely to die than boys, but I guess in these poor neighborhoods in India value the lives of boys more than girls which is a disturbing thing. I thought it was especially interesting that when you make households richer, you are disproportionally helping women. It goes to show that economic development and empowerment really do go hand in hand.
Another section of this reading that I thought was very provocative was that economic development is not enough for women empowerment. I think this point is shown during the history of the United States. There has been extreme economic development throughout the history of the United States but there has been little done in the empowerment of women. Even in a time where equal rights is at the forefront of social disputes, women are still getting paid less on the dollar than men. It is very important for the population to realize that everyone is better off when there are equal rights and it will take more than just economic development. There needs to be social activation, which is starting to happen in the US in order to really make equal rights a possibility. It is nice to see that we are really starting to make strides on this and gives me hope for the future of the United States economic development.


Female infanticide is nothing new to me, but the differences in mortality throughout women’s lives was surprising. It probably should not have been, as the Sen reading suggests that women are not given equal access to food, health services, or education unless they work for a wage. I wonder to what degree men in families give some preference to their sons due to wanting a subordinate group. Poor men have very fragile social standing with one group below them, poor women. I wonder if this social standing has anything to do with less opportunities and agency for women and young girls. The maternal mortality piece is interesting and sad, why would the family invest in their girls as much if they will die in childbirth soon? A common theme with women’s empowerment is that it feels like there needs to be a big push and that once that big push occurs, women’s empowerment will help grow the economy which will help empower women and create a cycle of beneficial growth. As I read through, it became clear the author disagrees with that previous point, but I felt like I might leave it. The problem, though, is that any type of push seems unlikely as it is difficult for poorer countries to do such a thing. I also found some of the parallels to rich Western countries intriguing, particularly that women were busy doing household work like childcare which limited their ability to participate in the market. It was cool to see some psychology concepts like stereotype threat come up, and I think they are great examples of some of the more nuanced barriers to women’s empowerment. The discussions of contraceptives and bank accounts in relation to the women’s husbands was a pretty eye opening tangible example of the lack of agency.

Jack Denious

Duflo’s article does a great job at diving deep into the ramifications of the world’s gender inequality. While specifically within the U.S we most commonly see gender inequality associated with differences within the workforce or within the “wage gap” - the differences between girls and boys and men and women in developing economies is often much more stark, at least from an early age. Women and girls are often treated completely differently and live completely different lives. Girls have less access to education, labor markets, and political positions. Girls are often fed less or give less access to food or sanitation. One then obviously questions why this is occurring. One hypothesis the author brings up is that girls will ultimately have less access to labor markets when the come of age - and therefore should get less resources. This made me think of how terrible a cycle this is: women have less opportunities to earn significant income, which leads to worse treatment and resources for girls, which leads to girls again being at a disadvantage when it comes to gaining significant roles in the workforce. I think the author made a good point early in the article about gender equality almost being a prerequisite to all of the SDG’s as we are at a major disadvantage without it.

Jacob Thompson

I thought this paper did an excellent job in showing just how far the consequences of gender inequality can spread, especially within developing countries. While the first thing that comes to mind when speaking of gender inequality is the wage gap, this article made me realize how often gender inequality is overlooked in other areas, such as the section discussing selective abortion. I had never really considered that parents may choose not to keep a child due to its gender, but after reading this I realize how the stereotypes and stigmas around gender may encourage parents in developing countries to lean towards a male child, as the stigmas associated with gender inequality suggest that a male child will be more likely to be able to produce. I was also surprised by the idea that parents invest less in their female children because they fear that she will die earlier than a male child would. Gender inequality is not only present in place such as the workplace or education, but even roots itself deep within family structures and how parents treat their children depending on gender. Finally, I agree with Duflo in that solving this inequality isn’t a matter of just policy or just development, but needs to be seen as an aspect of both. While each of them help to reduce this inequality, they can only do so much on their own and thus we must prioritize it more overall.

Kaylann Adler

I found this paper to be both interesting and depressing to read in many ways. One part that stuck out to me was where Duflo mentioned the difference in sex ratios at birth and how increased technology or access to technology might negatively affect gender equality since it decreases the cost of discrimination against girls. The first example that would typically come to mind would be China, which is mentioned, but Duflo also uses India as an example, where it is suggested that parents would prefer to pay a small sum to abort a girl rather than pay a large dowry later. Another example she gives is Taiwan, where the fraction of boys among live births increased from 0.515 in 1980 to 0.54 in 1990. These examples also show how economic development, while it can -- and very much does -- play a role in women's empowerment, is not by itself enough to increase women's rights and reach gender equality. In countries like India and China, where there's been massive economic development over the past few decades, there is still substantial gender inequality. Even in wealthier and developed countries like the U.S., there are still concerns about sex-selective abortion, especially among Asian- and Indian-American families. I do wonder if there is some cultural influence here as well since the countries mentioned in this section (China, Taiwan, India, etc.) are all located in Asia. A common argument that is also often mentioned concerning China and its gender inequality is the effect that the one-child policy had. If a family can only have one child, and a male child would be more likely to get a job with higher wages in the future than a female child, and the family would also have to pay a dowry if their child was female, then for purely economic reasons, it makes sense that families would want to have a boy instead of a girl.

Chaz Cunningham

I found Duflo's message of "Empowerment to Development" to be very direct and powerful. I found it interesting how the reading mentioned a report on one of our earlier studies, MDG's in reference to supporting economic development by means of women empowerment. The research done on how this concept can be proven to be true was new information. I am referring to the claims made that state how women provenly invest more money into goods and services that increase the well-being for families.
Another observation I made while reading this text is the topic of mothers education on child welfare. In my econometrics class, we wrote a project on the relationship between parents education and child earnings. This article talks about the greater freedom that a more educated and richer woman can have in choosing a husband who may care more about their child's well-being. The first thought of reasoing that came to my mind was the strong relationship and bond that a child and mother share very early in life. It seems that a woman who is the person solely nurturing the child from a very young age would have a greater impact on the child's future qualities. Therefore, a highly educated woman can increase the future well-being of a child's life because of the importance of a female figure in that child's upbringing. On a bit of a different note, this article made me think of how our society is slightly moving in this direction with the increase of female political leaders in our country and institutions.

Sally Ennis

I think that Duflo does a great job at reinforcing what we have already discussed in class about the role of women, but also shines important insight on what women in countries other than our own are facing. To start with what is happening in the US, I found the implicit association test to see the bias towards women in the workforce vs. family was fascinating. It shows that there is deep-rooted bias towards women and that subconsciously makes women think of them as inferior, resulting in women to be less likely to take a leadership role or role of high importance. This is where the theme that has been present in our class the entire year comes in: educating women. I want to mention a different point that I found interesting that seemed to be prevalent in the United States but not nearly as prevalent in other countries. This is the concept that women are extremely meticulous in who they marry and which women are able to marry certain men. The paper shows evidence that this has numerous outcomes for the women that tend to be wealthier and marry into a wealthy family. However, in many of the experiments this creates a bias and complication based on the women’s marriage preferences. To conclude, Duflo states, “Contrary to what is claimed by some of the more optimistic policymakers, it is, however, not clear that a one-time impulsion of women’s rights will spark a virtuous circle, with women’s empowerment and development mutually reinforcing each other and women eventually being equal partners in richer societies,” and I think that is so important to keep in mind that it is not a one time policy or educational program that will bring about change, rather, it is a continuous improvement in standards for women that will then have spillover effects in all parts of the economy.

Mary Wilson Grist

Much of this article made me think about Amartya Sen and his approaches to reducing poverty. However, one thing I wanted to touch on was Duflo's question about whether economic development can be enough to ensure gender equality. I think her answer is no, that we need to have more targeted policy in order to achieve gender equality. Even In the United States, a very much developed country, there is still a wide earnings gap. In my CBSC class today, we discussed that on average, a woman makes $.82 to the white man's $1. This gap is even worse for women of color. At the current rate, this gap won't close until 2093. In addition, while more education for women does help increase earnings, and is beneficial especially in countries where women have very limited opportunities, it does not close the gap. In the United States, even when we control for factors other than gender, including education, experience, location and industry, there is still a 2% wage gap difference. While this at first glance seems promising, it just means that when literally everything else is equal, women still earn less purely due to gender identity. This goes to show that while economic development is crucial, there is a significant need for specific policy in order to achieve gender equality.

Jacob McCabe

After reading this article and Amartya Sen's chapter about the agency and well-being of women, there is no doubt about the importance of women when it comes to not only societal, but economic progress (not that there was any doubt before). With that being said, I wanted to touch on Ella's point about having separate political races for women in order to increase their representation. While I agree that there may be an initial stigma in a view of the race as possibly "inferior", I believe that the effects it would have by forcing more engagement between political members of the opposite sex would provide unquantifiable returns. In addition, this allocation of representation could be seen as an initial condition as society progresses. Similar to the initial efforts to ignite progress in South Korea, this separation of elections could be eliminated once society has progressed enough to recognize the capabilities of female leaders.

Yuhan Liu

I think Duflo provides a balance review for the two-way relationship between empowerment and development in this paper. Instead of claiming that development will sure lead to women’s empowerment or that women’s empowerment will give way to economic development, Duflo emphasizes that this relationship is mutually reinforcing, and working on only one of the two elements is never enough. While this paper provides an encouraging message that women’s empowerment is indispensable for economic development, it can still be a saddening read at times to see the extreme injustices women face from even before their birth, throughout their lives, and until their death. One thing I find apparent and disturbing is how strongly the life of women are tied to the domestic life and especially child bearing and raising. While a household usually consist of a man and a woman, almost all the domestic work become responsibility of the woman, and she is (and it seems that she must, and she is assumed to) make decisions that are beneficial for the entire household and her children. At the same time, the man, spending most of his time outside of the domestic sphere often make decision at odds with the collective interest of the household and to this own benefit/ enjoyment. While this is true, women still have significantly less bargaining power than man within the household particularly because she spends so much time and effort caring for the household and thus almost all her work goes unseen. Not to mention that it is inherently unfair to place women in such a position of responsivity while men get to enjoy time for themselves/ make decisions for themselves. While getting an education, entering the job market, having less children can increase the bargaining power of women and allow better decisions that benefits the household, and particularly the next generation, to be made, I think the gender-relation and expectation that underlay these inequalities are equally worth paying attention to. While investing in women is good for development, it is still not good enough for women if the culture remains unchanged.

Gavron Campbell

This reading provided such a unique argument that is so prevalent to the development of countries through women equality. It made me think about a couple of instances that we discussed in class, such as South Korea. The movement towards integrating women in the labor force while simultaneously providing contraceptives proved to be helpful for stimulating growth in South Korea. I think its pivotal how this paper emphasizes that equality does not simply happen in one step but should be a constant, continuous effort. This paper was quite eye-opening—the authors did a cohesive and detailed job of explaining the horrific things women encounter on a daily, such as the abortion rates of women, illness discrepancy, and health and education. This paper made it hard to believe how inequality is still how it is today after reading about proven statistics of an increase in women’s equality and decrease in poverty leading to more productive economies.

Mark Natiello

After reading Duflo’s work, it’s clear that economic development and the empowerment of women go hand in hand. In class, we have talked several times about the importance of investing in women’s education because of the positive externalities it has on society and this paper reinforced that. Education for women will give them more power and agency within the household structure where there is currently so much discrimination. It will also lead to richer women and overall richer, more educated, and more productive societies. As Duflo mentions, this also improves the health of children and the overall cohesiveness of a family. However, as Duflo states, empowerment must be paired with intentional policy changes that promote equality and provide women with fair and equal opportunities. This ties in with the MDG of gender equality and empowering women which we have talked about in earlier classes. It’s also extremely saddening to hear about women the high levels of absorption in areas like China and India as well as overall discrimination and prejudice in both developed and underdeveloped countries. I wonder how these sex-selective abortions would change. As China passes its most rapid period of development, is this an issue they will look into fixing?

Max Thomas

Given the social and economic importance of promoting gender equality, I wonder what mechanisms would best challenge implicit biases against women, particularly those held in cultures that hold a greater value for men. Though the chapter proposes several legislative solutions to promoting gender equity, I’m skeptical of the impacts such policies would have on deep-rooted cultural norms and biases. My thought would be that, in order to challenge these biases, policies must emphasize the microeconomic benefits of gender equality, such as greater household incomes and better overall wellbeing.
Additionally, I found it interesting how equal economic investments can yield different returns between men and women. For example, the paper points out that, in areas with a uniform increase in school funding, female students benefit the most. Tangengtially, I wonder whether equal investments made in the United States would yield comparable returns. Currently, policies targeted toward specific demographic groups, particularly toward racial minorities and women, face significant pushback. If equal investments across groups can yield higher returns for the most affected groups, I would think equal investments (regardless of demographic) could yield the best results. From an American policy perspective, this concept could be applied to reparation payments and paid parental leave.

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