Female Leadership Raises Aspirations and Educational Attainment for Girls: A Policy Experiment in India

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Exploiting a randomized natural experiment in India, we show that female leadership influences adolescent girls’ career aspirations and educational attainment. A 1993 law reserved leadership positions for women in randomly selected village councils. Using 8453 surveys of adolescents aged 11 to 15 and their parents in 495 villages, we found that, relative to villages in which such positions were never reserved, the gender gap in aspirations closed by 20% in parents and 32% in adolescents in villages assigned a female leader for two election cycles. The gender gap in adolescent educational attainment was erased, and girls spent less time on household chores. We found no evidence of changes in young women’s labor market opportunities, which suggests that the impact of women leaders primarily reflects a role model effect.

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Last updated on 08/20/2014