Female Empowerment Through Inheritance Rights: Evidence from India

    1. Study Information


      This section discusses Sanchari Roy’s 2008 article “Female Empowerment Through Inheritance Rights: Evidence from India.”1

      The data is from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) conducted in 2005-06, which is a large survey of representative households from all 29 states of India. The survey includes a household schedule that provides a list of members in each household and basic socioeconomic information such as religion, caste, wealth status, and durable goods ownership. In addition, a Women’s Schedule provides the information needed to pin down the treatment status—state of residence, year of marriage, and religion—for all women between the ages of 15 and 49 in each household. It also provides information on sociodemographic variables such as years of education, work status, husband’s education and occupation, and on variables denoting status within the household such as participation in own healthcare and household decision-making, and requiring permission to go somewhere or maintain contact with friends and family. The sample, which is representative at the state level, consists of over 28,000 married women between the age of 15-49 in 29 states of India, with year of marriage varying from 1964 – 2004.

    2. Questions posed
      • Did granting daughters and sons equal rights to inherit from their natal family improve women's autonomy in their marital family?
    3. Description of intervention

      The intervention was a change in the Hindu Succession Act (HSA) to provide daughters and sons with equal rights to inherit ancestral property. The HSA of 1956 provided inheritance rights of ancestral property to sons only. Five states, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharastra, and Karnataka, amended this law in 1976, 1986, 1989, and 1994 to include equal inheritance rights to ancestral land for daughters. The Succession Law was amended nationally in 2005 to grant daughter’s equal inheritance rights to ancestral land. The law only applies to intestate succession and only applies to Hindus.

    4. Context of findings

      Five states amended the HSA to allow daughters and sons equal inheritance rights providing for a natural experiment as to whether such amendment made a difference in the lives of Hindu daughters.

    5. Key findings

      Granting inheritance rights to women that was at par with their brothers increased the degree of autonomy they enjoyed in their marital families. The effect was strong for women whose husbands’ occupation was complementary to the form of property inherited.

    1. Roy, S. (2008), Female Empowerment Through Inheritance Rights: Evidence from India, Department of Economics, London School of Economics, September r6, 2008.