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The 'Downside' of Women Empowerment in India: An Experimental Inquiry into the Role of Expectations

Luuk van Kempen
Social Indicators Research
Vol. 94, No. 3 (Dec., 2009), pp. 465-482
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40542267
Page Count: 18
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The 'Downside' of Women Empowerment in India: An Experimental Inquiry into the Role of Expectations
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Abstract

The paper reports on a field experiment conducted among poor women organized in self-help groups in the north-east of India. The experiment tests in a simple game whether overly optimistic expectations with respect to the benefits of exercising agency reduces one's appreciation of remaining with agency in the future. If so, unrealistic expectations may trigger behaviour that jeopardizes empowerment processes. It is hypothesized that negative emotions, such as disappointment, bring about such risks. We find that overstretched expectations may indeed work against empowerment if the gap between achieved and expected outcomes following increased agency is sufficiently wide. However, modest expectation gaps have the opposite effect and tend to promote attitudes conducive to empowerment. A tentative explanation for this result is offered by combining insights from recent work on the role of aspirations.

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