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GENDER EQUALITY IN DEVELOPMENT ESTHER DUFLO Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics Massachusetts Institute of Technology The starkest manifestation of the lack of gender equality is the phenomenon of “missing women,” a term coined by Amartya Sen in a now classic article in the New York Review of Books (Sen, 1990), to describe the observation that the proportion of women is lower than what would be expected if women, in the developing world, were given equal medical care and food if, in other words, women were not discriminated against. It is estimated that there are now between 60 and 100 million missing women in developing countries. Most of these missing women are not actively killed; they die from cumulative neglect. They are continually treated differently than their brothers, which increases their vulnerability. For each missing woman, there are many more women living under the pall of vulnerability. Women in developing countries lag behind men in many domains. In access to education: in low and moderate income countries, for every 100 men in secondary schools and universities there are only 79 girls. In labor market opportunities: women are less likely to work, they earn less than men for similar work, and are more likely to be in poverty even when they work. In political representation: women constitute just 15.9 percent of the members of lower and upper houses of parliaments (United Nations, 2005) In legal rights: women in many countries still lack independent rights to own land, manage property, conduct business, or even travel without their husband's consent. This essay addresses the interrelationships between economic development and gender empowerment, defined as improving the ability of women to access the constituents of development in particular health, education, earning opportunities, rights, and political participation. There is a reciprocal and intimate relationship between women’s empowerment and economic development. In one direction, development alone can play a major role in driving down inequality between men and women; in the other direction, continuing discrimination against women can, as Amartya Sen has forcefully argued, hinder development. Empowerment can, in other words, accelerate development.
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Policy makers and social scientists have tended to focus on one or the other of these two relationships. Those focusing on the first have argued that gender equality improves when poverty declines. Policymakers should therefore focus on creating the conditions for economic growth and prosperity, while seeking, of course, to maintain a level playing field for both genders, but without adopting specific strategies targeted at improving the condition of women. In contrast, many emphasize the second relationship, from empowerment to development. The
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This note was uploaded on 10/16/2009 for the course ECON ECO324 taught by Professor Gustavoj.bobonis during the Fall '09 term at University of Toronto.

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