Women’s health and welfare – inequality of opportunity, norms and possibilities for change

År: 2018 // Projektledare: Annika Lindskog // Medsökande: Heather Congdon Fors, Göteborgs universitet & Ann-Sofie Isaksson, Örebro universitet // Anslagsförvaltare: Göteborgs universitet // Område: Ekonomi // Belopp: 5 000 000 kr

Vår forskning

Inom ramarna för forskningsprojektet avses att studera ojämlikhet i förutsättningar, normer och möjligheter till förändring för utfall av stor betydelse för kvinnors välmående i Afrika och Indien: tonårsgiftermål, tonårsfödslar, högt barnafödande, våld i nära relationer och kvinnlig omskärelse. Projektgruppen kommer att kartlägga hur bestående dessa utfall är över generationer. Graden av persistens inom familjen är relevant på samma sätt som mått på ojämlikhet i utfall. Den beskriver betydelsen av familjebakgrund för att avgöra kvinnors välfärd, det vill säga ojämlikhet i förutsättningar. Därefter kommer gruppen att undersöka möjligheten att påverka utfallen och relaterade normer. Dels avser forskargruppen att undersöka biståndsfinansierade utvecklingsprojekt i Afrika, dels bidrag till familjer i Indien med flickor som uppfyller olika villkor. För de afrikanska biståndsprojekten matchas geokodad data på utfall med geokodad data på projekt. Genom att använda variation över både tid och plats kan man finna kausala effekter. De indiska bidragsprogrammen varierar i bland annat fokus och villkor. Här kommer forskargruppen att använda information om bland annat villkor och geografisk omfattning för att finna kausala effekter. Jämfört med tidigare litteratur skattar projektgruppen inte bara genomsnittseffekter, utan kan säga vilka kvinnor som gynnas (ökar jämlikhet i förutsättningar?) Gruppen kommer också att studera betydelsen av normer för att avgöra hur väl policyinterventionen fungerar.


Despite important improvements in women’s situation over the last 50 years, much remains to do. In the 2010s, the total fertility rate in Africa was still 4.7 and 1 out of 10 girls aged 15-19 gave birth in a year (United Nations, 2015). More than 1 out of 3 African women have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV) (WHO et al., 2013), and 100-140 million African women have undergone female genital cutting (FGC) (WHO, 2012). India is home to one third of the world’s child brides (Goyal & van Noort, 2017), and roughly 40% of women have experienced IPV (WHO et al., 2013).

In this project, we take seriously two key and related reasons behind persistence of these and other behaviors important for women’s health and welfare. First, they are likely to be heavily shaped by norms prescribing what it means to be a woman or to be a man. Research has shown that norms and perceptions that affect behavior change slowly, and tend to be persistent across generations (Fernandez & Fogli, 2006; Tabellini, 2010; Guiso et al., 2013). However, norms can change (Fisman & Miguel, 2007; Ferrara et al, 2012). Second, disadvantage is often passed on within the family. Intergenerational persistence implies inequality of opportunity. The aim of this project is twofold. First, we will investigate the persistence – over time and across generations – of a number of outcomes important for women’s health and welfare in Africa and in India: early marriage, teen-age fertility, high fertility, intimate partner violence and female genital cutting. Second, we will investigate the opportunities to change the relevant norms and behaviors with policy interventions. 

We will answer three broad research questions: 
1. How large is the intergenerational persistence in early marriage, teen-age fertility, high fertility, intimate partner violence and female genital cutting? 
The mapping of intergenerational persistence is descriptive, but of high relevance since it informs us about inequality of opportunity. Independent of the underlying mechanism it exposes the degree to which family background shapes individual outcomes. Intergenerational transmission within the family is also an important mechanism through which norms persist in society. Along the lines of some recent studies (e.g. Chetty (2014) for income and Bhalotra & Rawlings (2013) for health) we will also analyze the variation in intergenerational persistence over time and space, and how it co-varies with variables such as economic development and economic inequality as well as with the baseline distribution of the concerned outcomes and with historical norms. 
2. What is the impact of specific policy interventions on norms and on intergenerational persistence? 
The specific policy interventions that we will study are aid-financed development projects in Africa, and girls-targeted conditional cash transfers (CCTs) in India. If norms are an important reason behind persistence of behaviors critical to women’s health and welfare, the impact of interventions on norms is clearly relevant. The impact of interventions on the intergenerational persistence is important both from the perspective of intergenerational transmission, since it appraise the potential to break the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage, and from the perspective of evaluating impacts of the policy interventions, since it tell whom policy interventions reach. 
3. How does the impact of policy interventions depend on norms? 
As put forth in e.g. Bisin & Verdier (2017) and Ashraf et al, (2016) pre-existing norms will interact with policy interventions and thereby determine their effectiveness. 
With regard to the second and third research question, we will use a difference-in-difference strategy to estimate not only the causal impact of the policy intervention, but also important sources of heterogeneity in the impact. 

Women’s health and welfare – inequality of opportunity, norms and possibilities for change from Ragnar Söderbergs stiftelse on Vimeo.