Electrification and socio-economic empowerment of women in India

This study moves beyond the consensus of counting electrified households as a measure of progress in gender energy parity. Using the India Human Development Survey, we examine the effect of reliability of electrification on empowerment of women in terms of economic autonomy, agency, mobility and decision-making abilities, underscoring the labor market and respite effects of service reliability. We develop a comprehensive set of empowerment indices using principal component analysis and assess the causal effects of power outages on the indices with instrumental variable regressions while controlling for individual, household, district and caste characteristics. Results show that reliability of electricity has significant positive effects on all empowerment indices and improves women’s labor market outcomes, however, the effects differ at the margin of deficiency, location, living standards and education. The study recommends policy focus on electrification from a gendered lens for cost-effective solutions.

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