Reaching For Equality : Essays in Education and Gender Economics
Abstract: This thesis consists of three self-contained papers that all relate to the understanding of equality. The first chapter investigates the effects of preschool attendance on children in Kenya and Tanzania. We use a within-household estimator and data from nationally representative surveys of school-age children's literacy and numeracy skills, which include retrospective information on preschool attendance. In both countries, school entry rules are not strictly enforced, and children who attend preschool often start primary school late. At ages 7-9, these children have thus attended fewer school grades than their same-aged peers without pre-primary education. However, they catch up over time: at ages 13-16, children who went to preschool have attended about the same number of school grades and score about 0.10 standard deviations higher on standardized tests in both countries. They are also 3 (5) percentage points more likely to achieve basic literacy and numeracy in Kenya (Tanzania).The second chapter investigates the interaction between cultural norms and neighbourhood characteristics. I estimate the effect of cultural gender norms on the gender gap in math, and explore whether this effect is mitigated by municipality gender equality. I use high-quality Swedish administrative data on the results of national standardised math tests. To separate the effect of cultural gender norms from formal institutions, I estimate the effect of mothers' source-country gender norms on the gender gap in math for second-generation immigrants. By contrasting the outcomes of opposite-sex siblings, I control for everything that correlates with the source country but that is unrelated to gender. I show that the sibling gender gap in math increases with mothers' adherence to traditional gender norms, such that girls with more gender-traditional mothers perform worse relative to their brothers. To investigate whether the cultural gender norm effect can be mitigated by municipality gender equality, I exploit a refugee placement policy to obtain random variation in municipality characteristics. I show that municipality gender equality can almost completely mitigate the negative cultural norm effect. Taken together, my results imply that while cultural gender norms play an important role for the gender gap in math, they are not immune to the effects of neighbourhood exposure.The third chapter estimates the effect of female economic empowerment on domestic violence. I use individual level data from high-quality Swedish administrative registers on hospital visits relating to assault. I proxy female economic empowerment with a measure of women's potential earnings, caused by local changes in female-specific labour demand. I show that the causal effect of increasing women's potential earnings on domestic violence is positive and substantial. In addition, I show that increasing women's potential earnings increase the husbands' risk of destructive behaviour, such as stress, anxiety, substance abuse and assault. Taken together, these results indicate that improving women's financial independence triggers a male backlash response, even in a gender-equal country like Sweden.
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