The Right to Work and to Live: The Implications of India’s NREGS Program for Missing Women
37 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2019
Date Written: May 30, 2019
Limited economic opportunity for women reduces their household bargaining power and the economic value of daughters, amplifying son preference. This paper studies India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the largest workfare program in the world, which paid men and women equal salary and mandated at least one-third of workers be women. In a setting where the gender gap in employment and wages are sizeable, NREGS represented both an income shock and a large relative improvement in the labor market for women. We use the staggered roll-out of NREGS to show that districts which implemented the program earlier experienced an improvement in child sex ratios in favor of girls. Although program implementation was nonrandom, we find impacts exist only in rural areas, not in the urban counterparts of the same district, where NREGS did not operate. Furthermore, effects are larger in middle and upper income districts and districts with the most skewed initial sex ratios, results which are inconsistent with an alternative selection story. Finally, the effects appear only for rural youth sex ratios, not for adult sex ratios, suggesting endogenous migration is not driving the results.
Keywords: missing women, sex ratio, NREGA, public works
JEL Classification: O13, J1, I38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation