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ESSAYS ON WOMEN AND WORK IN INDIA AND ON OTHER-REGARDING PREFERENCES

Abstract
This dissertation is a collection of three essays. In Essay I, I explore declining female workforce participation in India and propose the following explanation: Traditionally, Brahmin (upper caste) women were more secluded and did not work outside the house, while non-Brahmin, often poorer, women did. With increased income, non-Brahmin families withdraw women from the workforce in order to signal their enhanced social status. This is a part of a larger process of cultural emulation referred to as the Sanskritization of non-Brahmin families. Using a nationally representative panel dataset, I show, in favor of this hypothesis, that while Brahmin women’s participation in work outside the house is lower than non-Brahmin women’s, the magnitude of the wealth effect on participation rises as we move down the caste hierarchy. I show, moreover, that Sanskritization characterizes only casual work and not salaried work. In Essay II, I explore the U-shaped relationship between female educational attainment and workforce participation in India. Specifically, using a principal-agent model of the household, with asymmetric information about the work performed by the woman at home, I show that a negative relationship between educational attainment and workforce participation may exist in four scenarios. First, if educated women are more likely to marry into wealthier families. Second, if education improves women’s productivity within the home. Third, if educated women are more likely to marry into families that have a greater preference for household work. And fourth, if education increases women’s preference for white-collar jobs. In Essay III, co-authored with Daniele Girardi, Simon Halliday and Samuel Bowles, we examine the widely held opinion that economics makes you more selfish and politically conservative. We use a difference-in-differences strategy to disentangle the causal impact of economics education from selection effects. We estimate the effect of four different intermediate microeconomics courses on students' experimentally elicited social preferences and beliefs about others, and policy-opinions. We find no discernible effect of studying economics (whatever the course content) on self-interest or beliefs about others' self-interest. Results on policy preferences also point to little effect, except that economics may make students somewhat less opposed to highly restrictive immigration policies.
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