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Expanding Horizons: Can Women’s Support Groups Diversify Peer Networks in Rural India?

Eeshani Kandpal, World Bank
Kathy Baylis, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Abstract

Peer networks in traditional societies may be homogenous and stratified by income or social hierarchy, therefore reinforcing social norms. Conservative social norms will reinforce current bargaining power, which is often skewed to the male in the household. Diversifying networks may improve female bargaining power of those women in the network by allowing them to connect with role models, facilitating information sharing with women who have a different range of experiences, or challenge the social norms in which they usually find themselves. We ask whether Mahila Samakhya, a women's empowerment program, was able to diversity social networks of women in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. Controlling for the participation in Mahila Sakakhya using program roll-out, we find that the program was able to diversify social networks, as measured by having friends outside one’s caste. Thus, we find evidence that government programs may be able to affect social norms through changing peers.

Suggested Citation

Eeshani Kandpal and Kathy Baylis. "Expanding Horizons: Can Women’s Support Groups Diversify Peer Networks in Rural India?" American Journal of Agricultural Economics (2013).
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/kathy_baylis/37