Recoding the Gender Balance: The E ect of Women's Computer Pro ciency on Gender Relations in Indian Households

Goyal, Vaasvi [Browse]
Senior thesis
63 pages


Moll, Benjamin [Browse]
Princeton University. Department of Economics [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
In 2012, the United Nations Development Program ranked India 132nd out of 148 countries on the Gender Inequality Index (GII), a composite measure of reproductive health, labor market participation and political empowerment. A woman's decision making agency, both in the household and outside of it, and her sense of personal freedom and autonomy can be the driving forces towards improving the state of gender relations in India. Given the rapid spread of computers and the internet in homes across India over the past ten years, I argue that it is essential to study the effect of technology of gender dynamics in Indian households using a woman's com- puter proficiency as an instrument for technology adoption. From 2005 to 2012, the number of computer proficient people in India more than doubles, from 4 percent in 2005 to almost 9 percent in 2012. A woman's ability to use a computers gives her access to an independent source of knowledge and stream of income, allows her to form connections with other women who have similar skills and may allow her to move past the traditional role of a homemaker. Therefore, in this paper I study the effect of computer use by women on gender relation's outcomes of autonomy, agency, and fertil- ity. Using the Indian Human Development Survey from 2005 and 2012, I find that women's computer proficiency leads to significant improvements in autonomy and significant decreases in fertility. The effects on fertility are particularly robust with computer proficiency decreasing the average num- ber of children a woman has by 0.6 on average. The effect on agency depends on the outcome variable in question with the most significant increases be- ing in the ability to decide how many children to have. Additionally, I find that, while the presence of the internet, and the distribution of information that occurs through it, explains some of the impact of computer proficiency on fertility, the effect of computer use on agency and autonomy is explained by other mechanisms, such as potential for employment or changes in bar- gaining power due to a skill differential between husband and wife.

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