We argue that women may be disinclined to participate in market work in the rural areas of India because of family status concerns in a culture that stigmatizes market work by married women. We set out a theoretical framework that offers predictions regarding the effects of caste-based status concerns on the time allocation of women. We then use the all-India National Sample Survey data for the year 2004-05 and the Time Use Survey for six states of India for the year 1998-99 to empirically test these hypotheses. After controlling for a host of correlates, we find that the ratio of women’s market work to men’s declines as we move up the caste hierarchy. This ratio falls as family wealth rises and the decline is steeper for the higher castes. Finally, the effect on women’s market work of higher education is weaker for the higher castes. These findings lend support to our theory and to the view that, through its emphasis on family status, caste plays a pivotal role in undermining the autonomy of women. Our paper has implications for how culture impinges on the rate at which poverty in developing countries can be reduced.A draft is here.
Marginal Revolution asked: "Was the Indian caste system Efficient?"