UCL Department of Economics


IFS Postdoc Seminar presented by Madeline McKelway (MIT)

25 February 2020, 12:30 pm–1:45 pm

IFS seminar

Paper: Vicious and Virtuous Cycles: Self-Efficacy and Employment of Women in India

Event Information

Open to





Institute of Fiscal Studies


IFS Basement
7 Ridgemount Street
United Kingdom

Abstract: Women’s labor force participation is far below men’s worldwide. I use a multi-stage field experiment in India to investigate whether low generalized self-efficacy (GSE) could constrain women’s employment and be self-reinforcing. GSE is a key concept in psychology that refers to beliefs in own ability to attain desired outcomes. I outline a model in which low GSE can create a vicious cycle: it keeps women from trying to work and thus from learning whether they could. My experiment provides women a psychosocial intervention to raise GSE. I cross-randomize an intervention to reduce family members’ opposition to women’s employment, a key external constraint to women’s work. I subsequently randomize job offers amongst those who sign up for a local job. There are four main findings. First, I document gains in women’s GSE from the GSE intervention. Second, the GSE intervention increases women’s employment. Third, reducing external constraints raises employment, but there are no gains from combining the two interventions. Fourth, receiving a job offer raises GSE. Taken together, my results suggest that increasing women’s GSE when women have the ability to work can spark a virtuous cycle.

About the Speaker

Madeline McKelway

at MIT

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