Essays on Women's Empowerment and Economic Development in Iran
This dissertation consists of three essays on women empowerment in Iran. In the first two chapters, we examine the impact of the rapid expansion of electricity to rural areas of Iran after the 1979 revolution on two important determinants of women's empowerment, fertility and female literacy. We use the timing of provision of electricity to villages to identify its impact on the child-woman ratio and the literacy rate of adult women and men. We use difference-in-differences (DID) method as well as instrumental variables (IV) to account for the potential endogeneity of electrification. Our findings for the impact of electricity on fertility is highly sensitive to the method of identification. The DID results imply that electrification lowers fertility whereas the IV estimates suggest the opposite. The results on literacy are consistent across estimation methods, both showing that electrification increases female literacy.
In the third chapter, we focus on the role of education in the empowerment of women. The positive effects of education on female empowerment through lower fertility and greater labor force participation are well known. Female empowerment is also closely identified with greater participation in market work and access to an independent source of income. In the past two decades Iranian women have increased their education, lowered their fertility, but their labor force participation remains low. In this chapter we examine the role of education in the empowerment of Iranian women through their allocation of time between domestic work, child education, and market work.
We find evidence that more educated women spend more time in market related activities and child education, but less in domestic work. The behavior of women in time allocation to market work and childcare exhibits similar patterns and both are quite different from house or domestic work. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that education empowers women by increasing their ability to earn more income as well as through their ability to invest in the education of their children.