January 12, 2012
By Doug Gavel
Published in the HKS News
finds that the system designating female leaders for selected village
councils in India has resulted in substantive gains for girls in those
villages -- both in terms of aspirations and educational outcomes.
"Female Leadership Raises Aspirations and Educational Attainment for Girls: A Policy Experiment in India" is published in the January 12th edition of the journal Science.
In their research the authors analyzed data gleaned from more than 8000
surveys of adolescents and their parents in almost 500 villages, a third
of which are randomly selected to reserve a seat for a female leader,
called a "Pradhan," on the village council. The data showed that,
"compared to villages that were never reserved, the gender gap in
aspirations closed by 25% in parents and 32% in adolescents in villages
assigned to a female leader for two election cycles."
The authors also conclude that girls raised in villages with a female
Pradhan were more likely to score higher in school exams than girls from
other villages, while test scores for boys remained roughly the same.
"These results show that laws can help create role models by opening
opportunities that were previously unavailable to a group, and this
increased opportunity does not diminish the aspirations of those outside
the group," the authors argue. "Our study shows that, in the Indian
context, the positive effect of exposure to a female leader dominated
any possible backlash, probably because it gave women a chance to
demonstrate that they are capable leaders. And, perhaps most
importantly, our study establishes that the role model effect reaches
beyond the realm of aspirations into the concrete, with real educational
and time-use impacts."
The study is co-authored by Lori Beaman, Department of Economics,
Northwestern University; Esther Duflo, Department of Economics,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Petia Topalova, International
Rohini Pande is Mohammed Kamal Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard
Kennedy School. Her research examines how the design of democratic
institutions and government regulation affects policy outcomes and
citizen well-being, especially in South Asia. She has taught at Yale
University, MIT and Columbia.