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Female matters: Impact of a workfare program on intra-household female decision-making in rural India

Anirudh Tagat ()

World Development Perspectives, 2020, vol. 20, issue C

Abstract: Welfare schemes have since long been used as tools of poverty alleviation, particularly in the global South. Women have been targeted as beneficiaries of many of these schemes, given traditional gender norms often deprive them of opportunities for gainful employment, among others. In this paper, we study the effects of one of the largest welfare programs in the world, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) in India. MGNREGS mandates a third of all employment for women and delivers wages directly into women's bank accounts, potentially triggering a change in household level outcomes in favour of women. This paper seeks to empirically investigate the impact of MGNREGS on female decision-making within the household in rural India. We use recently collected cross-sectional micro data in five states to examine whether the phased rollout of MGNREGS influences the share of female decision-makers across various categories of household decisions. We find strong positive effects of MGNREGS implementation on female decision-making power related to pattern of consumption of nutritious food, children's education, and female labour supply. Robustness checks show there is also substantial disagreement on the female as the key decision-makers on food consumption expenditures as well as male labour supply decisions. We argue that these effects are largely on account of changes to women's relative endowments. Implications for policy include refining program design to target female beneficiaries more suitably, thereby moving intra-household dynamics in their favour.

Keywords: Welfare programs; Women's empowerment; MGNREGS; Consumption (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D13 D16 J13 J16 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:wodepe:v:20:y:2020:i:c:s2452292920300667

DOI: 10.1016/j.wdp.2020.100246

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