Duflo on women and development

A new review paper. Excerpt:

when economic development reduces poverty, the condition of women improves on two counts: first, when poverty is reduced, the condition of everyone, including women, improves, and second, gender inequality declines as poverty declines, so the condition of women improves more than that of men with development.

Economic development, however, is not enough to bring about complete equality between men and women. Policy action is still necessary to achieve equality between genders. Such policy action would be unambiguously justified if empowerment of women also stimulates further development, starting a virtuous cycle.

This essay argues that empowering women does indeed change society’s choices in important ways, although the usual depiction of women as always making the best decisions for long-term development is somewhat exaggerated.

The conclusion here is a more balanced, somewhat more pessimistic picture of the potential for women’s empowerment and economic development to mutually reinforce each other than that offered by the more strident voices on either side of the debate.