Three essays in the economics of gender and development

Authors: Zoundi, David Aimé
Advisor: Dessy, Sylvain E.; Tiberti, Luca
Abstract: This Ph.D. thesis explores barriers to gender equality in developing countries. It is composed of three essays. The first essay (chapter 1) explores the roots of gender inequality favoring boys in education. It analyzes the effect of culture interaction with poor household economic on the school dropout probabilities of boys' and girls', using Malawi data. Malawi's suitability for this analysis stems from the coexistence in its territory of two different customs of post-marital residence for couples: patrilocal and matrilocal customs. Estimation results show that gender inequality in education is rooted in the interaction of household economic conditions and the custom of patrilocality—when a married couple settles near or with the husband's family after marriage. The essay concludes that public policies that make it unnecessary for parents to rely on traditional customs to organize their family life can eliminate gender inequality favoring boys' education. The last two essays analyze the issue of polygyny—when a man can have multiples wives simultaneously. This marriage institution has disappeared globally but remains confined in a cluster of sub-Saharan African countries, particularly in the Sahel region. Economic theory predicts that increasing women's education leads to the disappearance of polygyny. Still, empirical evidence is yet to establish this causal link, settling instead for a negative correlation between education and women's polygyny probabilities. The second essay examines the effect of education on women's polygyny probabilities, using primarily Uganda data. For identification, we use an estimation approach that jointly addresses sample selection and education endogeneity problems. We estimate a three-equation model comprising a polygyny (main) equation, a marriage (selection), and an education (endogeneity) equation. Estimation results confirm economic theory's prediction that increasing women's education leads to the disappearance of polygyny. The third and final essay provides evidence on the cause of the clustering of polygyny in drought-prone countries. Evidence shows that in village economies dependent on rainfed agriculture, the breakdown of informal risk-sharing arrangements following covariate shocks such as droughts increases the value of having a large family, both in size and composition, as a lever of resilience strategies. We find that polygyny allows households to build resilience to the adverse effects of drought on crop yields. These three essays contribute to advancing our knowledge of the barriers to gender inequalityin sub-Saharan Africa. It mainly draws attention to the importance for developing countries to invest in girls' schooling (Essay 2) and promote public policies that make it less attractive for parents to resort to traditional institutions to support their livelihoods (Essay 1). Additionally, policies such as those promoting smallholder farmers as a development strategy can contribute to the persistence of polygyny in drought-prone communities if done without weaning the rural population of its dependence on rainfed agriculture. In these settings, promoting resilience and adaptation strategies independent of household size can lead to polygyny and child marriage's disappearance (Essay 3).
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2021
Open Access Date: 12 July 2021
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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