Does co-residence with parents-in-law reduce women's employment in India?

by Preetha Joseph

India’s low and decreasing female labour participation has become a topic of great interest and concern in the past few decades. In fact, around 7 papers that use CPHS data to study the gender gap in the labour market using CPHS have been published within the past 2 years alone. A new study by Rajshri Jayaraman (ESMT Berlin & University of Toronto) and Bisma Khan (University of Toronto) explores a supply-side constraint in female employment. Patrilocality, whereby women reside with their husband’s family after marriage, is a common tradition in India. This paper investigates whether co-residence with parents-in-law affects women’s employment in India.

Co-residence with parents-in-law can be coupled with sharing of income and assets in the household, greater domestic responsibilities for married women, and greater likelihood of restrictive gender norms. These factors can play a role in reducing female labour supply. The authors generate instrumental variable fixed effects (IVFE) and difference-in-differences (DiD) estimates to study the employment patterns of married women, following the death of a parent-in-law. They use 12 Waves of CPHS data, along with the Indian Household and Demographic Surveys (IHDS) and the 2019 Time Use Survey (TUS).

The authors find that co-residence with a father-in-law reduces the employment of married women whereas co-residence with mother-in-laws does not. They delve deeper on potential the mechanisms of this outcome, such as gender-based norms, domestic responsibilities and negative income effects. To do so, they employ data on time-use, head of households, and decision-making authority in households, from the three datasets. Their results indicate that gender-based norms and restrictions on women’s agency are the most probable mechanisms through which co-residence may reduce the employment of married women.

This paper provides a glimpse into the role of family structure and cultural norms in female labour supply and labour participation. It introduces another potential mechanism behind the declining women’s labour participation in India, that can be explored further.

The authors will be presenting their work in the CPHS Research Seminar Series on November 3rd, 2022.

Their work will be discussed by Ashwini Deshpande (Ashoka University).

The webinar is open to the public. Please register for the event here.