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Gender-neutral inheritance laws, family structure, and women’s status in India

Mookerjee, Sulagna

Policy Research Working Paper, WPS8017

This paper examines whether economic empowerment of women improves their autonomy within their marital household, and investigates the mechanism, by exploiting variation from a legal reform aimed at improving women’s inheritance rights in India. Results suggest that the reform increased women’s participation in decision-making but at the expense of the older generation of household members and not at the expense of their husbands. Two channels are proposed to explain this phenomenon. First, this can be driven by a shift in the family structure from traditional joint families to nuclear households. Such a change is consistent both with the increase in women’s decision-making authority, which they can exert to move out of the joint household, as well as with men’s incentives, since men have weaker financial links with their parents post-reform. Second, even within joint families, the amendments empowered young couples at the expense of the older generation of household members.

URL: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/571781490880608807/Gender-neutral-inheritance-laws-family-structure-and-womens-status-in-India

Courtesy: World Bank

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