Volume 43 - Article 24 | Pages 673–706 Author has provided data and code for replicating results

The labor force participation of Indian women before and after widowhood

By Megan Reed

Print this page  Facebook  Twitter


Date received:09 Aug 2019
Date published:02 Sep 2020
Word count:7636
Keywords:caste, household distribution, household structure, labor force participation, life course, widowhood, women
Additional files:readme.43-24 (text file, 3 kB)
 demographic-research.43-24 (zip file, 1 MB)


Background: Due to its young age structure and taboos on widow remarriage, India has a large and relatively young female widow population. Many of India’s widows are in prime working ages. India has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world.

Objective: This paper calculates the effect of widowhood on the labor force participation of Indian widows. The analysis documents how labor force participation changes associated with widowhood vary by age, caste/religion, relation to head of household, rural/urban status, and region.

Methods: Using the India Human Development Survey (IHDS), the analysis tracks 3,217 women who experience the loss of their spouse between the two survey waves. Individual fixed effects regressions are used to measure the association between the transition to widowhood and changes in the number of days worked in the past year.

Results: Widowhood was associated with a decrease in days worked for older women; but for women widowed before age 52, widowhood was associated with a large increase in the number of days they worked. Widows who joined the labor force were more likely to gain employment in permanent and salaried work than married women. Widows who resided with their in-laws or who became the household head after their husband’s death saw increases in their work participation whereas those who lived in households headed by their adult children experienced negative widowhood effects on their work participation.

Contribution: These findings highlight the important link between marital status and female employment in India.

Author's Affiliation

Megan Reed - University of Pennsylvania, United States of America [Email]

Most recent similar articles in Demographic Research

» Indian paradox: Rising education, declining womens' employment
Volume 38 - Article 31    | Keywords: labor force participation, women

» How do mothers work? Kin coresidence and mothers' work in Latin America
Volume 45 - Article 30    | Keywords: household structure

» Proximity to mother over the life course in the United States: Overall patterns and racial differences
Volume 45 - Article 23    | Keywords: life course

» Period measures of life course complexity
Volume 44 - Article 47    | Keywords: life course

» US baby boomers’ homeownership trajectories across the life course: A Sequence Analysis approach
Volume 44 - Article 43    | Keywords: life course


»Volume 43





Similar Articles



Jump to Article

Volume Page
Volume Article ID