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Following up on the “debate” I had with Barbara Magnoni on targeting microfinance at women, a review of research on the topic of women and development has appeared. Via Chris Blattman, I just found this review paper by Esther Duflo that surveys research on how economic development affects the status of women and how the changing status of women affects economic development.

I haven’t had a chance to closely read the paper yet, but any of Esther’s papers are, as they say, self-recommending. Here are a few choice bits:

“This paper reviews the literature on both sides of the empowerment-development nexus, and argues that the interrelationships [between empowerment and development]
are probably too weak to be self-sustaining.“

“The conclusion here is a more balanced, somewhat more pessimistic picture of the potential for women’s empowerment and economic development to mutually reinforce each other than that offered by the more strident voices on either side of the debate.“

For the record, my priors, as I hope are documented in the conversation with Barbara, are:
* If your goal is economic development, focusing on women is likely a sub-optimal strategy.
* Rapid economic development may have a greater impact on women’s empowerment than a strategy focused on economically empowering women.

I’m looking forward to having those priors challenged.

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