Title: Does co-residence with parents-in-law reduce women's employment in India?
Discussant: Ashwini Deshpande

We conducted the 24th Consumer Pyramids Research Seminar on November 3rd 2022 at 6:30 PM IST.

Event Summary:

Rajshri Jayaraman (ESMT Berlin & University of Toronto) presented her paper on the effect of co-residence with parents-in-law on employment of married women. The paper was was co-authored by Bisma Khan (University of Toronto). There were close to 70 participants in attendance. The audience contributed more than 20 questions and comments.

India has a unique combination of high rate of co-residence of married women with parents-in-law and low rate of female employment. In addition, data from CPHS and India Human Development Survey (IHDS) indicate a negative correlation between co-residence and female employment. Although a causal link has not been established, gender norms, domestic responsibilities, and negative income effects are potential mechanisms driving this negative correlation. Against this background, the paper investigates whether co-residence reduces female employment and how it would do so.

The authors use 12 Waves of CPHS data and 2 rounds of IHDS data to study the evolution of married women’s employment following the death of a parent-in-law. They employed Instrumental Variables with individual fixed effects as well as a Difference-in-Differences two-way fixed effects model. Interestingly, they find that co-residence with a father-in-law reduces married women’s employment by 11-13%, while co-residence with a mother-in-law has no effect on their employment.

Jayaraman also presented findings on potential channels through which this reduction occurs. The study did not find evidence for the role of negative income effects or of increased domestic responsibilities. However, analysis of the Indian Time Use Survey (TUS) indicates that decision-making authority and filial piety could play a significant role in reducing women’s employment. They find that decision-making on various domestic and family issues rests almost exclusively with the father-in-law or the senior male in Indian households. The authors identify this as the most likely explanation for their results.

Ashwini Deshpande (Ashoka University) served as discussant for the paper. She highlighted the difference in measurement and definition of employment between CPHS and IHDS, and the implications of this difference on the results on the study. Deshpande urged a broader exploration of the mechanisms stated in the paper, apart from social norms. She cited her earlier work on demand-side constraints having a substantial influence on women’s employment. She also suggested further unpacking the exact changes that occur following the death of a parent-in-law, that results in an increase in employment of married women. The cultural nuances of of filial piety and women’s decision-making in the South Asian context was also highlighted.

The session concluded with a lively discussion between the author, discussant, and audience. They explored ideas of state-level differences, the role of education, policy implications, and more.

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