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Female Labor Market Opportunities, Household Decision-Making Power, and Domestic Violence: Evidence from the Bangladesh Garment Industry

  • November 2014
  • Working Paper
Kagy, Gisella

Abstract: Rapid growth in Bangladesh’s garment industry, brought about by trade policy liberalization, gave Bangladeshi women new opportunities to enter the formal labor market. While it is frequently believed that access to labor market opportunities improves the lives of women, causal evidence on the comprehensive impact on women’s lives is sparse. This paper examines the effects of increased employment opportunities on women’s decision-making power, the likelihood that women experience domestic violence, and investments in children’s education. Using four waves of the Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), I estimate the impact of increased employment opportunities for women using a difference-in-difference specification that exploits spatial variation in factory location and the timing of trade liberalization. After trade liberalization, areas with high factory density experienced increases in female labor force participation, specifically in factory positions. Compared to areas with low factory density, these high density areas experience increased female decision-making power in the household and an increased probability that children age 6 – 12 are currently enrolled in school. However, these increases in female empowerment are met with an increased likelihood of domestic violence. Heterogeneity analysis reveals effects are concentrated among lower socioeconomic status women and recent migrants are not driving results. These results are supported by fieldwork I conducted in Bangladesh.

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