Using a cluster randomized control trial, we study the role of women’s social networks in improving female labor force participation. In the first treatment arm, a hyper-local digital job search platform service was offered to a randomly selected group of married couples (non-network treatment) in low-income neighborhoods of Delhi, India. In the second treatment arm, the service was offered to married couples and the wife’s social network (network treatment), to disentangle the network effect. Neither couples nor their networks were offered the service in the control group. Approximately one year after the intervention, we find no increase in the wife’s likelihood of working in either treatment group relative to the control group. Instead, there is a significant improvement in their husbands’ labor market outcomes, including the likelihood of working, work hours, and monthly earnings, while in contrast home-based self-employment increased among wives – both in the network treatment group. We argue that our findings can be explained by the gendered structure of social networks in our setting, which reinforces (conservative) social norms about women’s (outside) work.
STEG Working Paper Series • Research Theme 2: Labour, Home Production, and Structural Transformation at the Level of the Household, Cross-Cutting Issue 1: Gender