Technical Change and Gender Wage Inequality: Long-Run Effects of India's Green Revolution

78 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2019

Date Written: September 12, 2017


New technologies can have distributional consequences that narrow or widen existing inequalities. In this paper, I estimate the effect of India’s Green Revolution on the gender wage gap in village labor markets. Widely considered the country’s most important episode of agricultural technical change, productivity gains from the Green Revolution were due largely to the introduction of high-yielding variety seeds (HYVs). Their sensitivity to water conditions advantaged locations with reliable irrigation access, which I exploit by constructing a novel dataset of historical groundwater resources as a source of exogenous variation in Green Revolution adoption. Using data from 1956-1987 in a difference-in-differences framework, I estimate that groundwater-rich districts experienced large and significant increases in HYV adoption, crop revenues, and cropping intensity. These productivity gains affected labor markets, with male wages rising, but female wages declining, jointly raising the male wage premium an average 17 percent. Additionally, census and microdata results show women substituted away from wage work, and increased their time in unpaid own-farm work and home production. These outcomes are most likely driven by the sharp yield gains achieved with wheat HYVs. As a male labor-biased crop, the expansion of wheat production contributed to declines in female wage labor participation. These findings document how new technology shocks can generate winners and losers, and offers an example of productivity growth that exacerbated gender disparities.

Keywords: gender inequality, technical change, agricultural labor, Green Revolution, India, groundwater, irrigation, HYV

JEL Classification: J16, J43, O12, Q16, Q25

Suggested Citation

D'Agostino, Anthony, Technical Change and Gender Wage Inequality: Long-Run Effects of India's Green Revolution (September 12, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Anthony D'Agostino (Contact Author)

Mathematica ( email )

P.O. Box 2393
Princeton, NJ 08543-2393
United States


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