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Patrick Rooney

Prior to this class, I have had little exposure to the literature behind the drastic benefits of women empowerment and economic development. It is crazy to me that there is just an overwhelming amount of literature and empirical evidence demonstrating the positive implications of women empowerment and that still today it is such a contentious topic. It becomes a difficult pill to swallow seeing that labor force participation for women in poor countries in 2010 was 52%, when investments in women’s education, health, and economic opportunity could positively impact so many lives. Also, what really stood out to me was the double burden that women face. This idea originates around women who work, also must do most housework and childcare as well. I believe that this double burden stems from the treatment input we talked about in class from Sen. Duflo explains why some inequality in the labor market may exist: “Parents have lower aspirations for their daughters than for their sons, female teenagers themselves have lower aspirations”. This eye-opening quote relates to ‘implicit’ bias that Duflo touches upon later in the article. “Implicit bias” is the general idea that people associate men with careers and women with family. It is sad to see that these biases are so ingrained that women themselves are intentionally lowering their career aspirations. The implications of women perceiving themselves in this light is astonishing. If society cultivates women with strong career ambitions, women are more likely to get educated, participate in politics, have better health, and bring these aforementioned benefits not only to themselves but to their families and children. Duflo even recognizes a study that shows when household finances are overseen by women child health, health, housing, and household nutrients all increase. All in all, much like Sen’s idea with agency and policy, women’s empowerment and economic development are mutually constructing concepts which are both required to achieve sustainable development for countries.

Jack Lewis

This paper explores a very interesting concept of economic development, women's empowerment, and how they are interconnected. At a surface view, it does appear that this relationship could work both ways - economic development will lead to women's empowerment, and women's empowerment will lead to economic development. I found myself resonating with the position that inequalities between men and women must be erased in order for economic development to skyrocket. Putting aside economics, erasing these inequalities is what should be done no matter what as "the full participation of women to all levels of decision-making is a basic human right." Additionally, women's participation in development taps into areas that are often overlooked because, "women invest the money in goods and services that improve the well-being of families, in goods that are conducive to development." Another interesting point the author brings up is the study done on the correlation between mother's education and earnings compared to father's education and earnings. The study found that the correlation between mother's education and earnings was much stronger than father's education and earnings. For obvious reasons of basic human rights coincided with studies that demonstrate the net positives of economic development that would come with women empowerment, it seems like a no brainer that this is where leaders should start.

Ian Kinney

Reading this paper really made me appreciate the challenges and intricacies of conducting economic research; the inability to fully isolate a variable makes it difficult to determine a causal effect, particularly when it comes to subjects like this one. The general trend of more economically developed regions having more gender equality can be observed, but it’s difficult to prove the extent to which equality leads to development or vice versa. Particularly illuminating was the discussion of the correlation between womens’ income/education and child welfare. Noting that there is clear evidence that improved earnings/education of the mother correlate with better child welfare, the author is clear that this may not be a causal effect. It is possible that a father who lets his wife work is more likely to make decisions in his children’s interest, and the two factors are therefore both caused by this third element.

The reading also made clear the extent to which attitudes and power relations within families are responsible for hindering female empowerment. Prior to reading the article I was aware of institutional and societal hurdles but didn’t sufficiently consider the role of the family in preventing women from participating in the economy and education. The discussion of division of resources between the husband’s and wife’s land holdings was particularly interesting to me. Despite a more equal allocation of resources being mutually beneficial, families tended to under invest in the wife’s land, leading to significantly lower total production. I would be interested in further reading about steps that can be taken to change perceptions of womens’ roles within families to address the fact that often it is their own family members who are holding back their agency and restricting their potential to flourish.

Josh Fingerhut

This was a very eye-opening article. Throughout my education, much of the discussion surrounding women's rights issues has been focused on the United States. Therefore, although there was still some dialogue on US-related issues, I appreciated the international perspective given by Duflo. I think one of the most important revelations of this paper is the increased discrimination faced by women in times of hardship, particular for those in poverty. It was both scary and revealing that families quite literally sacrifice the welfare and health of girls before boys, with the example given by Duflo being during droughts in India. Duflo makes the argument that lifting people out of poverty can reduce the number of times they have to make these choices. While this is a logical conclusion empirically, I was really taken aback by the thought that this was even necessary. I think such a fact is revealing about the societies that we live in. Even when economic conditions improve, it seems inevitable that these discriminations will still make themselves known more subtly (and I don't mean to downplay these forms of discrimination but anything is more subtle than letting your daughters die before your sons).

Reading further, I was unsurprised to see this was the case. Worldwide, there are still clear gaps in education, political participation, and the way that women are expected to spend their time. This led me to a logical conclusion that Duflo seems to agree with. Development can improve some of the most disgusting and oppressive gender discrimination, but it is not enough to reverse pervasive social norms. Therefore, we must prioritize policy that focuses on bridging this gap and providing more opportunities to girls and women.

Side note: I thought that the section of the paper discussing sex-selective abortion was worthy of discussion. I was pretty shocked to see the data showing that this is a thing even in the US.

Eric Bazile

Even though the article was a bit long-winded, I appreciated a lot of aspects of it.

One concept in this paper briefly mentioned was “Tragic Choice”. This mark of poverty occurs when capabilities are limited to such a point where one is choosing between two necessities. Most individuals, in my eyes, complain when they have so many capabilities, or that when a situation comes up, they have so many options and freedoms that they are having trouble with the efficiency or value of one choice. But they take options for granted. These impoverished women often overcome obstacles when they have to choose between life essentials, like nutrition, education, or health. This unorthodox measure of poverty is very interesting and effective, and I wish that the article touched more upon it.

Another unorthodox measure of poverty is the lack of free time, or the ability to CHOOSE what one wants to do free from their tragic choices and essential obligations. The article mentions how electrification increased women's employment (I forgot the place) simply because women had more time free from their traditional obligations. The article talks about how they used this time to be employed, but I am interested in what the other women were able to do with their free time.

A final feature of this article that I appreciate is the explanation that development is enough. Many people feel that once development is achieved, women’s problems are decreased. However, what actually happens is that the struggles of women transform. I am not arguing about the severity of the problems of women in LDCs vs MDCs, but am simply saying that freedom from poverty is not equality. Women in MDCs still face obstacles. One interesting one is “implicit bias” or the unaddressed subconscious stereotypes towards people. What is most depressing is that these biases develop in girls at a young age and limit their confidence to challenge men in their powerful positions.

Ultimately, the discrimination of women at all levels is inefficient and economical. But the more important statement is that discrimination against women is unethical and unjust. Women, if given a platform, can make just as good, if not better, decisions as men, and it is unfair that they are silenced.

Tyler Waldman

One of the key takeaways from this article is that the role of women empowerment in economic development has not yet been fully completed in any country in the world. Under the veil of economic development, I think it’s extremely easy to focus attention on increasing the rights of women in lower developed countries. While that goal is just, it remains important to discuss the effects of women empowerment on economic growth in highly developed countries as well. The study that jumped out at me from the paper was that girls typically performed worse on math exams due to internalized biases about their respective math abilities. Duflo states that “As long as these biases persist, gender equality will be hindered even if the technological conditions for an even playing field are met.” I agree with Duflo that the number one reason to rectify these wrongs is to create and live in a more just world. Another reason is It’s impossible to quantify the effects that these social ideations have had on economic growth and human development. Needless to say, when you stymie the intellectual capabilities of the (probably) smarter half of the population, you lose all the development those minds could have produced.

One aspect of the reading that I would like to discuss more in class is how access to abortion contributes to sex-selective abortion. Before reading this paper, I had never learned about this phenomena. How can policy protect the right of women to receive an abortion while simultaneously discouraging sex-selective abortion? Unfortunately, the seemingly best answer to this question may be to change societal perceptions of gender and create a more equal society: I say unfortunately because that “policy” seems impossible in today’s world. I wonder what ideas are out there and if others have encountered literature that confronts this issue.

Joe Jackson

Something that I was thinking about while reading this article was related to another class that I am taking on politics in the Middle East, which extends to cultural elements including the treatment of women. Today in class we were shown a series of surveys asking questions like “a woman should submit to physical punishment to keep the family together” and having men and women say if they agree or disagree with the statements. What was interesting about the data was how internalized so many of the differences in roles of men and women were internalized by females in different regions and countries. For the above statement in some countries women would agree with it over 50 or 60 percent of the time. Similarly, there were other statements about the different roles and responsibilities that men and women have and while on this issue men agreed more frequently than women, there was still a significant percentage of women who would agree with the statements as well. That data suggests that there is a significant psychological and cultural barrier that would need to be surpassed, in addition to the economic and political changes that the Duflo article suggests are necessary. I believe an interesting follow-up question to this observation is if the economic and political changes would solve the psychological and cultural barriers that the other research indicates are present. Or, like how the Duflo article notes that economic development on its own is not enough and political action is required as well, would separate actions need to be taken to break the existing cultural status-quo?

Sherman Golden

I found the most interesting part of this article to be the section regarding implicit biases that are held by both women and men. Obviously we are told that women are capable of performing the same jobs as men, however these biases associating men with career and women with family are still prevalent and evident. I began to think about how development that should go to promote gender equality may prove largely ineffective due to this biases. I recalled last class' discussion about treatment and agency, and realized that these two things are tied in more ways than I could've imagined. This left me with several questions: In a society where women have the same rights as men, what accounts for differences in outcomes? Why do these biases still exist given the overwhelming amount of evidence showing that they shouldn't? How have the actions of past generations affected gender relations and equality today? Is there a tenable solution to this problem?

Sarah Wittpenn

As I read this article I kept thinking back to our conversation about Sen and his idea that, “freedom is the ultimate end and primary means of development.” When thinking about gender equality or women empowerment and economic development, I saw a lot of parallels with Sen's discussion given their bidirectional relationship. Sen talks about how they both are inputs for each other which provides a complex intricate relationships and complicates how to manage and implement them. The article debates and examines how women empowerment can lead to greater economic development with their ability to invest and vote for things that will benefit the well-being of society. Likewise, they talk about how development, primarily access to education and the workforce can have an impact on growing women's equality and empowerment.

Another thing I found interesting echoes what Patrick talked about in his response about the implicit bias people have surrounding men and women and their roles in society. It is sad to see how much this affects women and their opinions on the prospect of their careers and life outlook. With more empowerment from society, women will develop higher career ambitions. If society provides them avenues to be educated and be in the workforce, there will be large benefits for their children and society as mortality rates decrease, fertility decreases, and development can grow.

There was also debate on how policies should be designed if women rights will come naturally with development. I thought this was a really interesting debate and something that is difficult to find the right answer to. Can women empowerment and equality really come from just continuing to develop and build infrastructures and invest? I believe that because of the bidirectional relationship that there is reason to design specific policies at the same rate that countries are investing in development objectives and pursuits. Because they are both inputs for each other, there should be focus on both.

Will Kistler

Reading this article gave me valuable insights into the struggles that women often face in developing–and developed– countries. The phenomenon of “missing women” is an extremely fascinating term that I have never heard before reading this paper. As I read through the article, I was continuously surprised by all of the unobserved variables at play that the author discussed. The theories of empowering women through increased educational funding and greater governmental representation in order to give way to greater economic development are definitely strategies that I would implement if I were able to consult government officials. However, as I continued to read the article, I felt like the author was slowly fading away from this notion.
It seems that it is extremely difficult to say that women’s empowerment is as strong of a catalyst for economic success as I previously believed–and this was very upsetting to see.

Also, the role that social norms play in the discussion of women’s empowerment is highly disturbing. The topics of sex-selective abortion and mortality rates of infants is appalling. I would like to discuss this topic more in class as I think it is very important that all students understand this grim reality.

Natalie McCaffery

Reading this article, I found the frequency of discussion about many of these facts to be quite ironic when compared to the frequency at which change is made. The emphasis on implementing policy, and the struggles women face when implementing gender-influenced policy stood out most directly to me. Additionally, the discussed effects on population development in response to birth control pills stood out as a key area in which policy could potentially make a big difference. Without focusing on women, the majority-male-policymakers could find a parallel solution to birth control pills for men that would potentially show a similar exponential impact. Their policy could be for birth control companies to invest the same amount of research and manufacturing for male birth control, as the probability of female birth control pills reaching less-developed populations is extremely slim due to the quantity necessary to be successful and the lack of access to health care that is necessary to support women in regulating hormonal cycles.

Gabe Miller

This article strongly reinforces a point made in class over and over again. Empowering women is important, and relates to Sen's theory that freedom is development, and development is freedom. I was particularly interested by Duflo's analysis of how political goals of women and men often differed due to the different experience men and women experience due to there roles; in other words, denying women equal treatment in the public sphere creates market failures because politicians are only accounting for 50% of the problems in their economy faced by the male half of the population. Other insights, particularly divorce rights and time rights, also showed how providing more freedom led to better economic outcomes.

An important part of Duflo's analysis is that societal biases remain prevalent even following economic development. One key example of this is the difference between male and female infant abortion rates. In other words, even as systems are provided that should theoretically empower women, they don't do that- or rather, they don't empower women as much as they are intended to. I think it is really important to factor in the fact that institutions and structures are created both by policy makers and by the policy user. Policy users often, consciously or subconsciously, use policies to reinforce the social norms of their community. For example: imagine a country where women have finally been allowed to fully participate in politics, but that country has a long history of viewing women as less intelligent and more emotional than men. That social norm is then injected into the new political system, decreasing the effectiveness of the policy. Even though women are allowed to participate in politics, there views are seen as lesser and their candidacies are laughed at. Policy change, in my view, also requires an effort by policy makers to show the value of using the policy as it is intended to be used.

Ryan Messick

I thought it was interesting reading the section of the paper that talked about West Bengal and how in places where there had not been a female leader, parents wanted their daughters to assume the role of housewife or to be in control of their daughters’ future. I think this heavily touches on the idea that development and gender inequality go hand in hand, and that most these inequalities can be perception based within a society. The following paragraph says that since women are expected to work within the home, there is a perception that they don’t need to be as healthy. Developed countries may prioritize males if they find most of their work in physical labor or something related, but running your society entirely on that without trying to develop a more advanced sector will stunt development. I think it would be interesting to see if areas with large gender inequality would benefit from first trying to motivate the development of a more modern sector and using the shortcomings that would be noticeable in planning to alter their perception about the need to work towards full participation for women.

Chadrack Bantange

This article was very insightful, showing off one of the most important aspects of today's economic development: gender equality through women empowerment. As someone of African descent, I could strongly relate to what was said in the study. Just as the article mentioned, many low-income households tend to give priority to boys' education over girls. This is because growing up, there is a strong cultural belief around which girls should learn how to be good housewives so that they can marry a good(rich) guy who will take care of them. The boys, on the other hand, should go through hustle, study hard, and get a job because it is their role to be the main provider in the family. With this in mind, girls drop out of school more often than boys do. And when a family goes through a financial crisis, they are more likely to disenroll girls from school than boys. Another strong argument advanced by these parents is that a boy without education is more likely to indulge in criminal affairs than a girl who did not. Also, after a girl gets married, she can continue her education relying on her husband's money, but since boys are not meant to be married, once they miss their education, they will be lost with no future ahead. So preferring boys' education to girls' is not only a way to sustain a strong cultural belief but also a way of equipping boys with tools to fight for and build their future.

This is clearly not something to support because its nourishes stereotypes that women have been experiencing for centuries. Although it is hard to suddenly change this long-existed belief, working towards alleviating people from poverty will bring considerable change. Girls from rich backgrounds tend to study and get a degree for as far as they want; this cultural belief does not apply to them. This tendency to privilege boys' education over girls takes place most of the time when a household is going through a crisis and needs to cut off its expenses. So if you improve people's lives, this trend will decline, and gender equality will progressively take place.

Will Fearey

In reading this paper, I began to think of other instances when societies were hurt from discriminating against certain groups of people. For example, the United States, before the civil rights movement, was missing out on a huge portion of the intellectual population. While I do not know for certain, I feel as though it is safe to assume that once African Americans had more financial and social opportunities, society as a whole immediately benefited. America then had access to more minds and more ideas that could generate positive outcomes in a number of sectors. Similarly, the article mentions how society benefits as a whole when women are given greater access to education and general rights. As a result of more equality, societies are able to advance the fastest due to the influence of the smartest individuals, male or female, black or white. The article also made me think about humanity’s reluctance to adopt obviously beneficial societal practices. For example, the implementation of renewable energy sources greatly benefits the environment as well as the bank accounts of those who rely upon them in the long run. I understand that due to certain social norms it may be quite difficult for countries to tap into the potential that women have, but it is a painfully obvious avenue that nations could take that would improve the world in so many ways.

Chris Ruiz

This paper about the value of female empowerment was of particular interest to me because of the work I did this past summer. I was fortunate to be able to do an internship with a non-profit organization based in Kenya called The Samburu Project. The primary goals of this organization were to provide people with access to clean water and to empower women. Women and girls are the ones who have to take the several hour treks to get drinkable water, and this prevents them from doing more productive things with their time like going to school. The construction of wells led to the construction and funding of schools, because now these girls had an abundance of free time that they could allocate to self enrichment. Older women can pursue income-generating activities instead of the subsistence activity that is retrieving water. The organization also provides young women with sex-education and provides them with hygiene products, which can aid in lowering birth rates, a practice associated with spurring development. In developing countries, I think it is important to enact female empowerment as a precursor to economic development. It is insufficient to just expect that female empowerment and greater gender equality will occur as a consequence of development. Women should not go "missing" in developing countries because women have a crucial role to play in development. An educated father and an educated mother often leads to more educated children, more education is correlated with higher income, and higher income is associated with greater development.

Ngoc Le

This paper was a very interesting read. As a woman, I agree that empowering women is the right way to go, and although sometimes it would not help men, I can't say that I care so much about that, as long as it didn't hurt men in the process. No policy is absolutely perfect, and right now, the focus is women. So yes, we can be a little bias."Inequality between genders is repulsive in its own right" is enough of an argument for me. I might be getting a bit philosophical here, but I am not an utilitarianist. I would rather the pie be a bit smaller but distributed equally than a huge pie but a certain group of people get the biggest pieces.
But let's go back to the article. One thing that I find very interesting is child mortality and child health is related to the woman, but not the man. And how policies change when women participate politically to favor child health and invest less in education. Seems like that's all they know. When women don't get the chance to go to school, all they know is childcare. Could it be why that area is what they focus on? If we surveyed W&L women, I can bet that the result would not be that their main concern is child care.

Kit Lombard

The article at hand was interesting because it balanced a variety of different findings on the effects of improving women’s lives across the world, whether it be the discrepancies in the treatment of female infants, adults, and even, elderly women. First, this article makes an important note that the US is no exception to the unequal treatment of male and female babies, as there is evidence of some form of sex-selective abortions in this country. However, still India is the case study focused on due to the stark discrepancy between the treatment of women and men. The author mentioned an interesting component that society will fight to keep girls alive just as hard as they would for boys who are at health facilities, but the decision comes down to the effort of parents making the difficult journey to the health facility. I think we forget that in some areas, even in the rural US, when there are limited road access and transportation services, the decision to go to the hospital is a heavy decision. I wonder therefore if a case study solely focused on transportation and health outcomes would shift policies to invest in infrastructure more. However, in contrast to this, I found it interesting that when women are more policyholders, they are less inclined to spend on roads. I understand the focus on water due to survival, but this discrepancy between the need to get girls to facilities for survival versus this lower inclination to invest in roads. The paper did make a strong argument on women making better and more effective decisions regarding money than men, but this brings up the limitations due to the barriers of women entering politics stemming from the mindset of constituents. This would be the perfect time to study Rwanda or other countries that do have high participation of women in politics.
Although this paper brought up interesting findings, I wish it included countries that were more women-centric. For example, Rwanda’s policies on education would have been interesting due to the higher involvement of women in politics. I am confused about why women are sometimes less likely to invest in education and the reasons behind children are more likely to attend education if a male parental figure decides over income instead of a female. I wonder if there are more variables to include in that study. This article incorporates Sen’s emphasis on agency, in this regard for women to be able to make their own decisions. With the existence of female agency, investments improve, job efficiency improves, and there are other positive economic benefits. In regards to the shortcomings of investing in women, I wish Duflo expanded further on these to provide clarity or reassurance, rather than stating the costs just need to be incurred because naïve men in power will just focus on these cons rather than the long-term benefits of improving equality for women.

Cal Christianson

After reading this paper, the biggest thing that stood out to me was the missed opportunities that many societies experience by the existence of such gender disparity. It is crazy to think that societies put up restrictions on the type of work women can do. This includes societal expectations towards education. By depriving women the opportunity to work, you deprive your economy a large percentage of your potential workforce. By creating such a gender gap when it comes to education, a society has put a limit on the investments that can be made in human capital. I wonder if judgmental attitudes towards women will change in the developing world as development occurs. To me, this almost feels like there is a need for a “Big Push” from the government or other organization. But instead of a strictly economic “Big Push”, this would be an effort to make traditional societies more receptive to the idea of women being educated, contributing in the workforce, and holding political office. I would be interested to know if such an attempt has been made and if there were any economic benefits stemming from a modernization of ideology.

Andrew Arnold

I thought this article was very interesting because I had never been exposed to literature or empirical evidence before about women gaining equality in the labor force. I think it is really interesting that for this issue there is a strong intersection between economics and culture. The cultural side of this in many countries including the United States I would argue is the bias against women pursuing certain careers or having careers in general. The article talks about how it is not emphasized our even accepted in some households that women should pursue education much less higher employment. I don't think I have ever fully understood why it is so important for women to be seen and celebrated for being in advanced industries or other positions of power. Now it makes sense to me because it helps shift the culture around women's involvement in these rolls, and therefore, promotes economic development. In Econ 100 we learn about the PPC curve and how inside of it countries are operating below their productive capacity. Just using that simple model it is kind of a no brainer that under utilizing the capabilities of women in the work force would result in countries underperforming productively. I think it makes sense now why there is such a push in the U.S. for equal employment opportunity and pay because it benefits everyone economically in the long run. I think this information needs to be something more widely known/taught because I feel like there is a disconnect when people hear things like closing the wage gap and equal opportunity employment and how that could actually help everyone.

Emily Ingram

I found it interesting that they made the argument of gender equality and economic development as a chicken-or-egg scenario. Although both sides make a convincing argument for a better society, I lean more towards the idea that female empowerment will lead to an increase in economic development. What stuck with me the most is that restrictions on women's educational and job opportunities are not always explicit, and that these norms are imposed on them as early as childhood. Using gender equality policy to encourage women to become more involved in the labor force could definitely increase economic productivity. I do agree that this change may not occur instantaneously and that the problem will be instantly solved, improving gender equality and closing the gap is an important step in general economic development.

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