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Research Insight: Asset ownership and female empowerment: Evidence from a natural experiment in Pakistan


The literature shows that women do not have an equal share in wealth as men, even within the same household, where large inequalities exist in ownership of land and productive assets. Women’s increased control of resources has been shown to improve their bargaining power in the household. It has improved intergenerational transfers, child development and other indicators of women’s autonomy. Inequalities in land and wealth are constraints that cannot be ignored when aiming at forward-looking and equitable development. In patrilineal Pakistan, women are excluded from directly inheriting parental property. Even after the amendment of the Prevention of Anti-Women Practices Act in 2011, which gives women equal rights in inheriting property, over 80 percent women report not receiving their legal share in inheritance. Moreover, as parental assets are rarely passed on to daughters, parents give only marital assets. Thus, marital asset transfers plays the role of a pre-mortem inheritance, transferring a woman’s share of parental property to her marital family.


Sarah Khan, Stephan Klasen, Atika Pasha

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