Does reliable electrification reduce gender differences? Evidence from India

This study examines the effect of reliability of electricity on gender differences in socio-economic status using a comprehensive set of labor and non-labor market outcomes in India. Using the temporal variation in household electricity hours from a large gender-disaggregated data set, we examine the effects of electricity reliability with individual fixed effects and instrumental variable regressions. Our analysis reveals contrasting trends with significant progress at the extensive margin of electricity access, but little progress at the intensive margin of reliability, hours of electricity. We find that reliable electrification improves the status of women relative to men through increased employment opportunities and reduced time allocation to home production. For instance, 10 more hours of electricity increases the likelihood of employment in the ‘usual status’ by 2.8 percentage points (pp) for men, and 4.2 pp for women. The analysis is robust to the use of piece-wise linear regression approaches, as well as alternate specifications of the outcome variables. The study recommends considering electricity as a right, and as part of the broader strategy for reducing gender disparities in India.

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