Duration of exposure to inheritance law in India: Examining the heterogeneous effects on empowerment

Shreya Biswas, Upasak Das, Prasenjit Sarkhel

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The impact of public programs involving legal protection may depend on the duration of exposure, especially in developing countries with persistent social norms. A longer duration of the program is likely to be associated with gradual positive changes in these norms that beneficiaries could leverage in their favor. However, program effects might also decay if the norms do not change with time, even several years after the legal reforms. This paper examines the heterogeneous impact of the duration of exposure to gender-neutral reforms in the inheritance law in India on women empowerment. We use the time lag between the year of the amendment in the respective states and the year of marriage to generate exogenous variation in reform exposure among women. The findings indicate a significant non-linear increase in empowerment because of higher exposure. The gains are more pronounced for instrumental empowerment that relates to the ability to make decisions and to a lesser extent, albeit positively for intrinsic, which pertains to expansion of agency. The impact remains significant across women from rural/urban sector or social groups. At a more disaggregated level, greater exposure led to higher mobility, higher household decision-making ability, reduced husband controlling behavior, and lesser emotional violence.

Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of Development Economics
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2023


  • India
  • duration of exposure
  • empowerment
  • non-linear effects
  • property rights


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