This paper explores how safety concerns together with cultural norms associated with female purity have an impact on behavior such as female labor supply in a developing country context. In particular, I examine the effect of media reports of local physical and sexual assaults on urban women's labor force participation in India. This is done by combining nationally representative cross-sectional microeconomic surveys on labor force participation carried out between 2009 and 2012 with a novel geographically referenced data source on media reports of assaults. I find that a one standard deviation increase in lagged media reports per 1000 people of local sexual assaults reduces the probability that a woman is employed outside her home by 0.67 percentage points (or 5.5% of the sample average). I find evidence that this is a short lived effect, with female labor supply increasing to catch-up following an initial decline. The negative effect of media reported violence on female labor supply persists after controlling for the underlying level of violence against women reported to the police in a district or after controlling for exogenous gender specific labor demand shocks. I find these effects to be strongest among young women between the ages of 18 and 25. These effects are robust to changes in the estimation sample and empirical specification, as well as to placebo checks.
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- economics of gender
- labor supply