The 2011 World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings get under way next week with a full slate of discussions, webcasts and seminars planned around two issues critical to sustaining economic growth – gender and jobs.
In a world where women make up the majority of unpaid workers, and only 15% of landowners and one in five lawmakers are women, there’s a lot to talk about.
She stared at the money in her palm for a long time while tears slowly trickled down her face. After a long silence Hana, a 19 year old Yemeni woman spoke, “This is the first money I have ever held in my hand that is mine.” “How do you feel?” asked the director of the women’s shelter where Hana had been living in for the past four months. As if reborn and with an empowered voice, she replied, “Strong.” The story of Hana is one example of the barriers faced by Yemeni women. Born into a violent environment where her vicious father abused women, Hana lived her childhood believing that she was worthless.
Women are less likely to occupy the top paying jobs in developed economies, in part because they are less competitive than men. A whole series of laboratory experiments has detailed the gap in competitiveness between the average woman and the average man, even when women are just as good, if not better than men. Is this result due to the fact that women are biologically female, or the fact that they are socialized as female? Although we often alternate between gender and sex in describing males and females, they are not strictly the same.
World over, many aspects of gender inequality continue to persist. Women face higher risks of death at birth and throughout their life cycle. Women are under-represented in schools, jobs, boardrooms and parliaments. Women continue to earn less than equally qualified men. In many cases, women have less power to make decisions and choices about their lives even within their homes. Many of these persistent gender gaps are still evident even in the developed world. In the Middle East and North Africa, there is little difference between girls and boys in education or health outcomes.
Although the gender gap in education has been decreasing over the past decade, many girls continue to lag behind their male counterparts in equal access to schooling and acquisition of basic skills such as literacy. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 17 million girls are still out of school; in South Asia, another 9.5 million are shut out.
What would equal educational opportunity mean for women and girls around the world?
In common with many readers, I was aware of the discrimination and severe disadvantage faced by widows in many countries.
Nonetheless, I was completely unprepared for what I found when I looked closely at the data for Mali. As documented in my recent paper (Lasting Welfare Effects of Widowhood in a Poor Country, 5734), Malian women who have experienced the shock of widowhood, sometimes very young, have lower living standards than other women of the same age. These detrimental effects persist through remarriage and are passed on to their children ─ possibly more so to daughters ─ suggesting an intergenerational transmission of poverty stemming from widowhood.
Comme beaucoup de lecteurs, j’étais consciente de la discrimination et du sévère désavantage auxquels les veuves font face dans de nombreux pays.
Néanmoins, ce que j’ai trouvé en examinant des données maliennes était bien pire encore que ce que j’imaginais. Comme je le documente dans un récent article (Effets persistants du veuvage sur le bien-être dans un pays pauvre, 5734), les femmes maliennes qui ont connu le choc d’un veuvage ont un bien-être moins élevé que d’autres femmes du même âge. Par ailleurs, les effets négatifs du veuvage persistent après un remariage et sont transmis aux enfants – probablement plus à leurs filles – ce qui suggère une transmission intergénérationnelle de la pauvreté engendrée par le veuvage.
An interesting, recently revised working paper by Duflo, Dupas and Kremer looks at the effects of providing school uniforms, teacher training on HIV education, and the two combined. This paper is useful in a number of dimensions – it gives us some sense of the longer term effects of these programs, the methodology is interesting (and informative), and finally, of course, the results are pretty intriguing and definitely food for thought.
So I come back from vacation to find out that I was part of a randomized experiment in my absence. No, this had nothing to do with the wonders of airline travel in Europe (which don’t add that frisson of excitement through random cancellations like their American brethren), but rather two of our co-bloggers trying to figure out if the blog actually makes people recognize me and Jed more (here are links to parts