Property Inheritance Rights and Female Political Participation in India

NO : WP-2024-012

AUTHOR : Bharti Nandwani and Punarjit Roychowdhury

TITLE :  Property Inheritance Rights and Female Political Participation in India


The paper examines whether granting property inheritance rights to females improves their participation in politics as election candidates in India. Conservative gender norms in pa¬triarchal societies like India discourage women from actively participating in politics, with socially enforced sanctions for non-compliance. Additionally, being politically active is costly, requiring significant contributions of time and resources. Improvement in property rights is likely to financially empower women, easing both the constraints. Using state-level variation in legal changes to women’s property rights and employing a large administrative data on elections in India, we show that better property rights for women lead to an increase in women contesting for elections and likelihood of winning for women candidates. We also document that regional parties contest more female candidates and there is increased entry of new female candidates after the reform. Further, using a large household survey data, we provide evidence that the increased political participation is driven by improved financial autonomy of women after the inheritance reforms. We confirm that pre-existing trends are not confounding our results.

Keywords: Gender, India, Female Political Participation, Property Rights
JEL Code: : J16, D72, K11, O12