Rubina Hundal, PhD student, Harris School of Public Policy
Female labor force participation is often positively associated with domestic violence, consistent with backlash theory. How does the social acceptability of women’s work change this relationship? Using two approaches, we find that the relationship between female labor force participation and intimate partner violence is weakened when it is more socially acceptable for women to work (measured by the community female labor force participation rate). First, we document this pattern across 55 countries using the Demographic Health Surveys. Second, to separate cultural norms from economic context, we focus on migrants within India and find that the positive relationship between women working and violence is weakened for migrants from regions with higher female labor force participation rates. These results suggest that the consequences of women empowerment policies on violence may depend on social norms.