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Economics: Women's Roles in Rural Economic Growth


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About this Lesson

  • Type: Video Tutorial
  • Length: 4:59
  • Media: Video/mp4
  • Use: Watch Online & Download
  • Access Period: Unrestricted
  • Download: MP4 (iPod compatible)
  • Size: 53 MB
  • Posted: 03/29/2010

This lesson is part of the following series:

Economics: Full Course (269 lessons, $198.00)
Economics: Productivity and Growth (12 lessons, $18.81)
Economics: Policy and Growth (4 lessons, $7.92)

This video lesson on economics looks at women's roles in rural economic growth. Taught by Professor Tomlinson, this lesson was selected from a broader, comprehensive course, Economics. This course and others are available from Thinkwell, Inc. The full course can be found at The full course covers economic thinking, markets, consumer choice, household behavior, production, costs, perfect competition, market models, resource markets, market failures, market outcomes, macroeconomics, macroeconomic measurements, economic fluctuations, unemployment, inflation, the aggregate expenditures model, banking, spending, saving, investing, aggregate demand and aggregate supply model, monetary policy, fiscal policy, productivity and growth, and international examples.

Steven Tomlinson teaches economics at the Acton School of Business in Austin, Texas. He graduated with highest honors from the University of Oklahoma and earned a Ph.D. in economics at Stanford University. Prof. Tomlinson's academic awards include the prestigious Texas Excellence Teaching Award given by the University of Texas Alumni Association and being named "Outstanding Core Faculty in the MBA Program" several times. He has developed several instructional guides and computerized educational programs for economics.

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To understand the way a developing country emerges from poverty, you've got to think about the people who are taking advantage of the opportunities they find in the environment to better themselves. Economic development is the result of choices and decisions and opportunities seized by millions of people in a developing country. And as people have begun to wonder who it is that's actually doing the work that helps a country to develop out of poverty, economists have begun to focus their attention on women in the rural economy.
Consider the way it works in a developing country. The typical woman, in a rural area, perhaps because of religious and cultural constraints, is married as a teenager and begins having children immediately. Her responsibilities include gathering wood for fuel, sewing, taking care of children and providing for the education of children in the household. Also, she'll probably assist with some of the agricultural labor, usually in the post-harvest period, perhaps shelling rice or maybe going out and helping to find contacts or people who may come and buy the produce from the family's plot. Now, the typical woman's opportunities in a rural area are strictly limited. Because of the way law works in many developing countries, she has no right to land tenure, no access to credit, no ability to inherit property or any of these things. Her opportunities are strictly limited, and therefore she has very little control over what's planted on the family farm, when it's harvested and the way resources are allocated. As a result of the patriarchal society in rural areas, women's opportunities remain limited, until something changes in the economic environment that improves their lot. Consider the ways in which the changes in the environment can help development precede a pace by improving the opportunities that women have.
One example is the green revolution in the 1960's and 70's. This was a period of rapid technological advance in agriculture, in which new seeds and new fertilizer and mechanical methods of agricultural production became available in rural areas in developing countries. As a result of the newfound productivity in the rural areas, suddenly people are less concerned about famine. There's more food available. And with this increase in resources, women are able to better provide for the nutritional needs of their families. Health improves and the next generation is better off than the previous. In general, anything that increases opportunities for women is going to go right into improving opportunities for children and families in these rural areas, and that tends to create human capital. So that the next generation is more productive, healthier and better situated to be a part of the world economy.
Consider another example. In the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, what began was that an economist, who founded a small bank, started making loans, very, very small loans to women in rural villages. These women would take the money they got, buy a small piece of capital, like a sewing machine or an oven, and start their own business making clothes or food, which they could then sell in their village. These women had not had access to capital before and, because they were provided with access to capital, they were able to become entrepreneurs and many of them quickly began making enough money that they could, in turn, make loans to their own friends. Women capitalizing on their social networks to become financial intermediaries, lenders, providing opportunities. And as the lot of women improves in villages, so does the lot of children and their families.
This is the interesting thing: because of women's intimate involvement with their families in these rural areas, anything that improves their economic lot immediately contributes to development by providing nutrition and education and other things that are going to make children more productive in the long-run. So the agencies then that are engaged in rural areas, trying to help poor countries to develop to prosperity, do well to focus their attention on the plight of rural women. Anything they can do to get more resources to rural women for nutrition and education, anything they can do to help teenage girls have educational opportunities so that they can stay in school, learn about nutrition, learn about education, learn about production, all of these things are going to help these societies to develop more rapidly.
In general, don't think of economic development as some abstract impersonal phenomenon. Think of the people who actually have opportunities, who are looking for ways to better themselves. And when you do, you'll get better ideas about what governments and foundations and individuals and businesses can do to take advantage of the resources that are present and catalyze them for productivity to help an economy grow to prosperity.
Productivity and Growth
Policy and Growth
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