This is the tenth entry in this year's job market series. You can read the previous entries here.
Street harassment, or sexual harassment in public spaces, is a serious problem around the world. In Delhi, 95 percent of women aged 16-49 report feeling unsafe in public spaces (UN Women and ICRW 2013). Women incur significant psychological costs from sexual harassment (Langton and Truman 2014) and actively take precautions to avoid such confrontations (Pain 1997). However, there is limited evidence on the economic costs of daily harassment. Moreover, there is no quantitative evidence of the effect harassment has on women’s human capital attainment.
One potential cost of an environment in which street harassment is prevalent is that women may avoid opportunities that would otherwise be available to them. In Delhi University (DU), for example, women tend to attend lower quality colleges than men, even though on average they do as well or better than men on the national high school exams. In my job market paper, I ask whether women choose to attend lower quality colleges in order to avoid sexual harassment while travelling to and from college. I answer this question in a context where 71 percent of the enrolled students live at home with their families and travel to college every day, mostly by public transport, and where over 89 percent of female students have faced some form of harassment while traveling in the city. Specifically, 63 percent of female students have experienced unwanted staring, 50 percent have received inappropriate comments, 40 percent have been touched, groped, or grabbed, and 26 percent have been followed. I find that women’s college choice can be explained in part by their concerns about exposure to street harassment.
- job market papers 2017