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Global Development Institute

The welfare effects of social assistance programmes for women in India

Vidhya Unnikrishnan

Abstract

The literature has established that the alarming female poverty rate in India is a crucial factor contributing to ‘missing elderly women’. This paper examines the role of an unconditional cash transfer programme (the Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme– IGNOAPS) implemented in India on household expenditure on education, medical expenses and food items when the programme recipient is an elderly woman. The paper uses the longitudinal household-level data (2004–05 and 2011–12) released by the India Human Development Survey and utilises a quasi-experimental framework of propensity score matching combined with fixed effects to estimate the effects of the pension amount received by elderly women on disaggregated consumption expenditure. The findings of this research suggest that women’s access to IGNOAPS has a positive effect on consumption expenditure on nutrient-rich food, while the pension amount also increases education and medical spending. The results obtained in the paper are explained through the elderly women’s increased bargaining power and the income effect. The results remain consistent after addressing concerns about endogeneity using an instrumental variable. The study provides evidence that elderly women’s access to IGNOAPS reduces household food poverty and improves other welfare dimensions in the household.

Keywords

Women, IGNOAPS, bargaining power, poverty

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