Conventional wisdom and a number of recent papers say yes, but Matthias Doepke and Michèle Tertilt have a paper out that suggests we think twice about this relationship:
“In this paper, we examine the link between female empowerment and economic development from the perspective of economic theories of household decision making. We develop models that are consistent with the empirical observation that an increase in female resources leads to more spending on children. We use these models to address two related questions. First, we focus specifically on programs that target transfers to women and aim to raise female income, and ask whether such policies really make children better off. Second, we consider a wider range of policies, and ask whether alternative forms of female empowerment have similar effects.
While at first sight it may seem that existing empirical evidence is sufficient to answer these questions, our theoretical analysis shows that this is not the case. We demonstrate that the link from the observed empirical patterns to policy implications is far from obvious: the effects of policy interventions are highly sensitive to the details of the underlying economic model, unintended consequences can arise, and different forms of female empowerment can have opposite effects.”
Full paper available here.
In related news, happy Women’s History Month! International Women’s Day 2012 is this Thursday, March 8. More on this soon.