Women & Power in the Developing World.”
Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 26 (June 2023).

Abstract: What do we know about women’s negotiation of power in the Global South? The prevailing view tells us that women’s power in the Global North is greater than in the South. Yet across analytic levels, the developing world provides striking models of the assertion of women’s power that challenge established concepts of political and economic development. At the macro level of state development, research identifies how the subordination of women has been central to the creation and modern infrastructure of liberal democratic states or political orders. Data analysis here provides complementary evidence that the most effective alternatives to patriarchal political orders are originating in the developing world. At the meso level of policy-making processes, developing-world states are more likely than developed-world states to recognize and co-opt women’s power. Finally, at the micro level, intrafamily negotiations of patriarchal power are most dynamic in the developing world, with the greatest promise to improve our understanding of the broader systems of power that drive states, policies, and welfare.

Climate Shocks & Gendered Political Transformation: How Crises Alter Women’s Political Representation.”
Politics & Gender (2023).

Abstract: Do climate shocks fundamentally destabilize gendered power systems catalyze female political representation and forge new paths for women into representative politics? I conceptualize climate shocks–unpredictable, extreme weather including droughts and floods–as “gendered shocks” with potential to increase the supply of and demand for female representation because they catalyze three factors: (1) male out-migration from disaster zones, simultaneously (2) increasing opportunity for and the necessity of women’s economic autonomy and (3) expanding the scale of women’s “care work” to ensure familial and local communities’ survival.

I develop a theory of climate shocks’ gendered political impact using three stylized facts. First, male out-migration increases women’s physical mobility and autonomy in extra-household economic and political systems of production, expanding the supply of viable female political candidates; in-migration has the converse effect. Second, women’s economic autonomy enables substantive political engagement, consequently generating distinctive female political agendas that create new demand for female politicians. Historically, these drivers of female representation have been in conflict, particularly where European colonial powers encouraged male out-migration from agriculture while narrowing female opportunities for economic autonomy, as in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. However, crises that disproportionately harm vulnerable groups may initiate large-scale demands for systemic change. Third, climate shocks can catalyze female political engagement and subsequent representation if they simultaneously initiate disparate gendered burdens for women to ensure collective survival, which increases women’s demand for structural change. When combined with male out-migration, women’s new roles offer them the requisite economic autonomy and substantive engagement with local governance to realize political agendas, increasing the supply of women candidates.  

Positive impacts on women’s representation are thus expected where climate shocks generate significant male out-migration in regions with strict gender norms of seclusion (rural South Asia and North Africa). Negative impacts are expected where shocks catalyze male in-migration, reifying conservative gender norms (urban South and East Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and parts of the US). No impact is expected where women’s economic autonomy already enjoys strong social and political support, such that female labor force participation, and associated female levels of mobility and financial autonomy, are already high (Western Europe and parts of North and Latin America, Eastern Africa, and South East Asia). 

Culture, Capital & the Gender Gap in Political Economy Preferences Evidence from Meghalaya’s Tribes (with Nikhar Gaikwad)
The Journal of Politics 83, no. 3 (July 1, 2021): 834-50.

2017. Winner, Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA)’s Pi Sigma Alpha Award for Best Paper Overall, Presented at the MPSA Annual Conference, April 2017
2017. Winner, Midwest Political Science Association’s Kellogg/Notre Dame Award for Best Paper in Comparative Politics, Presented at the MPSA Annual Conference, April 2017

Abstract: What explains the gender gap in political engagement and economic policy preferences? Many scholars point to material resources, while others credit cultural determinants. We identify and test an important link between these factors: cultural lineage norms that structure entitlements to resources. Studying the relationship between culture and resources is challenging in societies where both disadvantage women. We analyze a unique setting: northeast India, where matrilineal tribes live alongside patrilineal communities. Patriarchal cultures and political institutions are shared, but lineage norms are distinct: patrilineal groups distribute inherited wealth through men, while matrilineal tribes do so via women. We conduct survey and behavioral experiments with representative samples of both communities, alongside extensive qualitative research, and find that the gender gap reverses across patrilineal and matrilineal groups. Our results indicate that lineage norms—which determine who gets to make decisions about wealth and how—are key determinants of the political economy gender gap.

Reform, Representation, and Resistance: The Politics of Property Rights’ Enforcement.
The Journal of Politics 82, no. 4 (October 1, 2020): 1390-1405.

Abstract: When do quotas for women’s political representation promote economic gender equality? Legislative reforms equalizing economic rights are common globally, with mixed results. I consider the impact of quotas on women’s rights in a crucial domain: property. I leverage exogenously set electoral quotas—reservations—for women as heads of local government in India. Reservations enable clean identification of the impact of representation on enforcing gender-equalizing land inheritance reforms. I find that political representation enables women to secure property rights and ensures that they are upheld. However, backlash occurs when reservations guaranteeing female representation make enforcement of reform credible. Women can reduce this backlash by using female representation to trade traditional monetary dowry for property inheritance and familial responsibilities. This, in turn, reduces the “cost” of reform to men. These findings confirm the power of political representation to not only claim economic rights but broaden their acceptance by changing perceptions of parity.

Women’s Inheritance Rights Reform and the Preference for Sons in India(with Sanchari Roy and Sonia Bhalotra)
Journal of Development Economics 146 (September 2020): 102275.

– Press mention in The Wire, Business Standard, India Spend

Abstract: We investigate whether legislation of equal inheritance rights for women modifies the historic preference for sons in India, and find that it exacerbates it. Children born after the reform in families with a firstborn daughter are 3.8–4.3 percentage points less likely to be girls, indicating that the reform encouraged female foeticide. We also find that the reform increased excess female infant mortality and son-biased fertility stopping. This suggests that the inheritance reform raised the costs of having daughters, consistent with which we document an increase in
stated son preference in fertility post reform. We conclude that this is a case where legal reform was frustrated by persistence of cultural norms. We provide some suggestive evidence of slowly changing patrilocality norms.

Accounting for Accountability: Local Government and Social Equity in India.
Asian Survey 55, no. 5 (October 1, 2015): 909-41.

Abstract: This article studies variation in individuals’ perceived ability across India to hold local officials accountable for their performance. It finds significant gender differences in accountability perceptions, consistent with traditional social institutions. Exposure to progressive institutions of education and labor mobility is associated with the elimination and reversal of gender differences.