Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Women's Autonomy and Subjective Well-Being in India: How Village Norms Shape the Impact of Self-Help Groups

De Hoop, Thomas and Van Kempen, Luuk and Linssen, Rik and Van Eerdewijk, Anouka (2010): Women's Autonomy and Subjective Well-Being in India: How Village Norms Shape the Impact of Self-Help Groups.

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Abstract

This paper presents quasi-experimental impact estimates of women self-help groups on subjective well-being in Orissa, India. We find that, on average, self-help group membership does not affect subjective well-being. However, our results at the same time reveal that subjective well-being sharply declines for those members whose newly gained autonomy meets with relatively conservative social gender norms among non-members. We interpret this finding as evidence for heterogeneous losses of feelings of identity for self-help group members. Identity losses loom larger when women’s enhanced autonomy implies a stronger violation of social gender norms at the community level. Social sanctioning mechanisms play an important role in the heterogeneous negative impact on subjective well-being, as evidenced by qualitative accounts of women’s empowerment trajectories in the research area.

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