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Information and Social Norms: Experimental Evidence on the Labor Market Aspirations of Saudi Women

Monira Essa Aloud, Sara Al-Rashood, Ina Ganguli, Basit Zafar

NBER Working Paper No. 26693
Issued in January 2020
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Labor Studies

How important are social constraints and information gaps in explaining the low rates of female labor force participation (FLFP) in conservative societies that are undergoing social change? To answer this question, we conducted a field experiment embedded in a survey of female university students at a large public university in Saudi Arabia. We randomly provided one subset of individuals with information on the labor market and aspirations of their female peers (T1), while another subset was provided with this information along with a prime that made the role of parents and family more salient (T2). We find that expectations of working among those in the Control group are quite high, yet students underestimate the expected labor force attachment of their female peers. We show that information matters: relative to the Control group, expectations about own labor force participation are significantly higher in the T1 group. We find little evidence that dissemination of information is counteracted by local gender norms: impacts for the T2 group are significant and often larger than those for T1 group. However, T2 leads to higher expectations of working in Education - a sector that is socially more acceptable for women.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26693

 
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