How Do Women Weather Economic Shocks? A Review of the Evidence

45 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

Date Written: December 1, 2010

Abstract

Do women weather economic shocks differently than men? The evidence shows this to be the case, especially in low-income countries. The first-round impacts of economic crises on women's employment should be particularly salient in the current downturn, since women have increased their participation in the globalized workforce and therefore are more directly affected by the contraction of employment than in the past. Crises also have second-round impacts, as vulnerable households respond to declining income with coping strategies that can vary significantly by gender. In the past, women from low-income households have typically entered the labor force, while women from rich households have often exited the labor market in response to economic crises. In contrast, men's labor force participation rates have remained largely unchanged. Evidence also suggests that women defer fertility during economic crises and that child schooling and child survival are adversely affected, mainly in low-income countries, with adverse effects on health being greater for girls than for boys. In middle-income countries, by contrast, the effects on children's schooling and health are more nuanced, and gender differences less salient. Providing women in poor households with income during economic downturns makes economic sense. This paper reviews workfare programs and cash transfers and finds that the former provide poor women with income only when they include specific design features. The latter have been effective in providing mothers with income and protecting the wellbeing of children in periods of economic downturn.

Keywords: Labor Markets, Population Policies, Labor Policies, Gender and Development, Health Monitoring & Evaluation

Suggested Citation

Sabarwal, Shwetlena and Sinha, Nistha and Buvinic, Mayra, How Do Women Weather Economic Shocks? A Review of the Evidence (December 1, 2010). World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No. 5496. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1722009

Shwetlena Sabarwal (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Nistha Sinha

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Mayra Buvinic

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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