Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Caste, Female Labor Supply, and the Gender Wage Gap in India: Boserup Revisited

Kanika Mahajan
Assistant Professor of Economics, School of Liberal Studies, Ambedkar University, Delhi
Monday, March 27, 2017 - 04:00
4:00 to 5:30 p.m. Center for the Advanced Study of India 3600 Market Street, Suite 560 (5th floor) University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA 19104

About the Speaker:
Kanika Mahajan is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the School of Liberal Studies at Ambedkar University, Delhi. Her primary research interests include empirical development economics in the field of gender, labor, and environment. Her recently published articles look at the effect of female labor supply and rainfall shocks on gender wage gap in India and the effect of NREGA on casual wages in rural India. Currently, she is working on differences in agriculture productivity across male and female farm managers in India and exploring the structural linkages between agriculture and decline in female employment in rural areas. She earned a Ph.D. in Quantitative Economics from the Economics and Planning Unit of Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi in 2015.

About the Lecture:
The gender wage gap is notable not just for its persistence and ubiquity but also for its variation across regions and countries. How does greater work participation by women matter to female wages and the gender wage gap? Within India, a paradox is that gender differentials in agricultural wage are the largest in southern regions of India that are otherwise favorable to women. Boserup (1970) hypothesized that this is due to greater labor force participation by women in these regions. This is not obvious, as greater female labor supply could depress male wage as well. Other factors also need to be accounted for especially since women have fewer opportunities for non-farm employment. Kanika Mahajan and Bharat Ramaswami undertake a formal test of the Boserup proposition—econometrically, they estimate district level inverse demand functions that relate female and male agricultural wages to exogenous variation in female and male labor supply to agriculture. The conceptual challenge is to identify exogenous variation in female and male labor supply to agriculture. The effect of female labor supply on wages is identified by the variation in cultural and societal norms that regulate female labor supply. They find that differences in female labor supply are able to explain 55 percent of the gender wage gap between northern and southern states of India. Their research also shows that women gain from greater non-farm employment, even if their direct participation in such activity is limited, which happens because of higher wages.

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