Women’s Inheritance Rights and the Intergenerational Transmission of Resources in India

    1. Study Information


      This section discusses the 2013 article by Klaus Deininger, Aparajita Goyal, and Hari Nagarajan, “Women’s inheritance rights and the intergenerational transmission of resources in India.”1

      The study used data from nationally representative Rural Economic and Demographic Survey (REDS) in 1999 and 2006 to compare inheritance practices of families in states that passed equal inheritance laws to households in states that had not passed equal inheritance laws, and to compare families that were affected by the change (had an unmarried daughter at the time of the amendment) to families that were not affected by the change (families with daughters already married, Muslim families). The National Family and Health Survey (NFHS) 2005-06 provided additional household information for analysis.

    2. Questions posed
      • What is the impact of reforms to the inheritance legislation on daughters?
    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 to 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 daughters equal inheritance rights to ancestral land. The law only applies to intestate succession and only applies to Hindus.

    4. Context of findings

      The research was able to look at inheritance patterns over three generations of individuals to assess whether the amendments to the Hindu Succession Act had any impact on the inheritance bias for sons.

    5. Key findings

      The reforms increased women’s likelihood of inheriting land, although they did not close the bias gap. Females whose father died after the amendments in 4 states are 15 percentage points more likely to inherit land than those whose father died before the reform. Additionally, there was a significant increase in girls’ educational attainment after the HSAA.

    6. Unanswered questions
      • What was the role of information campaigns to close the inheritance gap?
      • Was there an increase in will creation that may have avoided application of the HSA?
      • Was there an increase in inter vivos gifts to sons to avoid HSA?
    1. Deininger, K., Goyal, A., & Nagarajan, H. (2013). Women's inheritance rights and the intergenerational transmission of resources in India. The Journal of Human Resources, 48(1): 114-141.