Essays on Gender in Developing Countries
While in the last few decades, we have witnessed a significant reduction in extreme poverty in the developing world, the progress has been slow and uneven for women and girls. The disadvantages experienced by women manifest as gender gaps in not just standard poverty measures but also in investments that would help them overcome poverty. This dissertation applies the tools of economic analysis to study decisions that affect such investments and explores how gender gaps in opportunities for women emerge and sustain.The first chapter analyzes how an early onset of menstruation (menarche) affects schooling in India. While female schooling is an important end in itself, this research on the impact of menarche has consequences for understanding the link between early nutrition, education, and income: improvements in early nutrition cause improvements in later life outcomes, but they also lead to earlier menarche. In cultural contexts where menarche impedes girls' access to education, the link between better nutrition, schooling, and later life outcomes may be attenuated. I study this question using data from India, a context where menarche marks a girl's transition from childhood to womanhood; after menarche, her family's honor is inextricably linked to her behavior. To estimate the causal effect of menarche on school enrollment, I use a longitudinal dataset that tracks a single cohort of children throughout their childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood and exploit the variation in the timing of menarche within this cohort to show that reaching menarche before age 12 leads to a steep decline in school enrollment.The second chapter (co-authored with Nishtha Kochhar) studies the marriage market response to the flooding of the river Kosi in 2008 in Bihar, a state with some of the highest child marriage rates and poverty in India. To identify marriage market responses to the Kosi floods, we examine marriages formed after the Kosi floods with those formed before the Kosi floods across the affected and unaffected districts in a difference-in-differences framework. This chapter's key result is that Kosi floods increase male and female child marriage incidence. This study highlights the institution of marriage as a channel through which disasters may have a long-lasting impact on women. Thinking about policy responses that will decouple child marriage and natural disasters becomes especially critical today when Eastern India is experiencing more frequent flooding events.The third chapter (co-authored with Milan Thomas) is a descriptive study that shows that between one-third to one-half of the total variation in children's time use is explained by the variation within their household. This chapter documents a gendered gap in the incidence of time poverty among children across the wealth distributions of four very diverse developing countries (Ethiopia, India, Vietnam, and Peru). These findings relate to the literature on the time poverty of women in developing countries and have implications for promoting gender equality under Sustainable Development Goal target 5.4 on unpaid care and domestic work.
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The Precocious Period: The Impact of Early Menarche on Schooling in India Khanna, Madhulika (Georgetown University Initiative on Innovation, Development and Evaluation, 2019-07)Improvements in childhood nutrition increase schooling and economic returns in later life in a virtuous cycle. However, better nutrition also leads to an earlier onset of menstruation (menarche). In socio-cultural contexts ...