Women’s empowerment and socio-economic outcomes: impacts of the Andhra Pradesh rural poverty reduction program

The paper explores whether one of the largest programs in the world for women’s empowerment and rural livelihoods, the Indira Kranti Patham in Andhra Pradesh, India, has had an impact on the economic and social wellbeing of households that participate in the program. The analysis uses panel data for 4,250 households from two rounds of a survey conducted in 2004 and 2008 in five districts. Propensity score matching was used to construct control groups and outcomes are compared with differences-in-differences. There are two major impacts. First, the Indira Kranti Patham program increased participants’ access to loans, which allowed them to accumulate some assets (livestock and durables for the poorest and nonfarm assets for the poor), invest in education, and increase total expenditures (for the poorest and poor). Women who participated in the program had more freedom to go places and were less afraid to disagree with their husbands; the women participated more in village meetings and their children were slightly more likely to attend school. Consistent with the emphasis of the program on the poor, the impacts were stronger across the board for the poorest and poor participants and were more pronounced for long-term Scheduled Tribe participants. No significant differences are found between participants and nonparticipants in some maternal and child health indicators. Second, program participants were significantly more likely to benefit from various targeted government programs, most important the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, but also midday meals in schools, hostels, and housing programs. This was an important way in which the program contributed to the improved wellbeing of program participants. The effects captured by the analysis accrue to program participants over and above those that may accrue to all households in program villages.