Essays on Policy Evaluation
This dissertation examines two policies that affect women's education, bargaining power, son preference, and awareness of domestic violence in developing countries. The first chapter evaluates a conditional cash transfer program in Bangladesh to identify its impact on the education of multiple generations and explores the pathways behind the impact. The second chapter examines a domestic violence policy in Bangladesh to identify its impact on women's justification of violence.Globally, about 254 million school-aged children are not enrolled in school, weakening their future productivity and slowing the economic development of their societies. The first chapter shows that investment in educating young women is an effective development policy because they also increase their children's education. To identify a causal effect, I use a difference-in-difference and instrumental variable approach to exploit the exogenous variation provided by a program that temporarily made secondary education free for girls in rural Bangladesh. In addition, I explore the causal role of various pathways by which a mother’s education increases her child’s education: marital matching, fertility, labor market participation, bargaining power, and son preference. The paper contributes by providing evidence of education spillovers in a developing country setting, where there is surprisingly little causal evidence. Additionally, it unpacks the multiple pathways through which an increase in the mother’s education contributes to an increase in the child’s education, an aspect previously overlooked in the literature.The second chapter investigates how domestic violence laws impact women’s attitudes toward intimate partner violence (IPV). Around 736 million women worldwide have been victims of domestic violence at least once in their lifetime. Violence can contribute to higher health and economic costs and reduced economic activities. Using the enactment of the Bangladesh Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2010 as a natural experiment and a difference-in-difference approach, I show that the implementation of the law significantly reduced women’s justification of violence. The study provides evidence that laws can change personal beliefs and social norms, even in patriarchal countries with a conservative outlook toward women.Overall, this dissertation highlights the importance of policies affecting women in developing countries. The findings suggest that education policies are cost-effective in addressing educational inequality in developing countries. The results also provide evidence that in countries with higher rates of violence toward women, a law criminalizing and defining violence can make women more aware of abuse, which can then reduce their justification of violence.