My economics tutorial assigned a wonderfully informative and refreshing experimental study for our weekly reading just last week. In it, Robert Jensen and his team test the effect of increased availability of information involving job opportunities on investment in human capital in several randomly selected (to avoid bias within the experiment) communities in India. Are you ready for the unexpected, but much appreciated twist? The study targeted job opportunities available specifically to women.
Long project short, women between the ages of 18 and 28 saw a drastic decrease in unemployment, increase in average yearly earning, and, as a result, increased bargaining-power within the home. The change in the status of these women increased the value that society placed upon them. A trickle down effect ensued. Because these young women increased their worth (cringing at the thought that ones worth is financially determined), there was an increased investment in girls within these communities.
This increased investment in human capital was evidenced by a jump in school enrollment rates for girls between the ages of 6 and 15. Additionally, these communities saw an increase in the number of hours per week that girls, on average, spent on school work outside of the classroom. What struck me as particularly interesting was that health statistics for young girls also improved. Average BMIs increased, which lead, over the course of 4 years, to an increase in the average height of girls in these regions, and a decrease in pregnancy before the age of 19.
WOW! All of those improvements made to the standard of living of the female population just because of increased access to employment opportunity information. Jensen also reports relatively low costs of implementation of his program. I picked my brain to see how more of this could possibly be negative, and I came up with nothing. I would love to see global aid organizations implement for of these types of programs around the world… I’m looking at you World Bank, Clinton Foundation, Sangra, etc.