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Mahreen Mahmud - ​Exeter Business School

Mahreen Mahmud (Exeter Business School) will present "Economic and psychological constraints to women’s empowerment".

Abstract :
Across developing countries, women experience high rates of intimate partner violence and have limited control of household resources. Using a cross randomised experiment in rural Kenya, we provide evidence on whether alleviating economic and psychological constraints on their own and in combination improve these outcomes. Results indicate that a one time large unconditional cash transfer does improve women’s control of household resources but not an index of the frequency of physical and sexual intimate partner violence. Combining a light touch psychological intervention targeting aspirations and self-beliefs with the cash transfer significantly reduces this violence index by 0.14 standard deviations relative to just receiving the cash transfer. We find considerable heterogeneity : women from households that are at high risk of violence experience a large increase in the violence index when assigned to the cash transfer alone while women in the low risk group experience no such increase. In fact, they experience a significant reduction when both economic and psychological constraints are alleviated. Initial conditions in the household that predict risk of violence appear to be an important determinant of the household response to a transfer. From a policy perspective, this highlights the need to pay attention to vulnerable groups in the design of cash transfer, and more broadly, social protection programmes.