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Asset ownership and female empowerment: evidence from a natural experiment in Pakistan

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Abstract: In this study, we exploit a natural experiment to investigate the size and nature of the gender asset gap in Pakistan. In 2010, there was a massive flood, which affected nearly a fifth of the country, and caused a distinct deterioration in socio-economic conditions. Families in flood affected regions faced a considerable decrease in inheritable property, potentially leading to a scarcity in family assets that could be passed on to the next generation. We use the 2010 floods as a wealth shock to study the impact of decreased household wealth, due to exposure to flooding, on marital asset ownership of women, and subsequently, on female empowerment outcomes. The 2SRI estimation results show that retaining marital assets are associated with a higher status of women in rural Pakistan. Specifically, retaining a higher brideprice leads to an increase in the empowerment of women in the household. We also estimate the association between explicit and implict gender bias. We collect a series of tablet-based Implicit Association Tests (IATs) to show that women with a higher gender bias are also less empowered in household decision-making. The effects of marital assets on implicit gender bias are consistent with those of explicit gender bias. In a country with poor implementation of women’s property rights, marital assets are the only property that women possess.

Authors: Sarah Khan, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Stephan Klasen, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Atika Pasha, Universität Mannheim

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