Caste, kinship, and life course: Rethinking women's work and agency in rural South India

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This paper reexamines the linkages between women's work, agency, and well-being based on a household survey and in-depth interviews conducted in rural Tamil Nadu in 2009 and questions the prioritization of workforce participation as a path to gender equality. It emphasizes the need to unpack the nature of work performed by and available to women and its social valuation, as well as women's agency, particularly its implications for decision making around financial and nonfinancial household resources in contexts of socioeconomic change. The effects of work participation on agency are mediated by factors like age and stage in the life cycle, reproductive success, and social location – especially of caste – from which women enter the workforce.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-102
Number of pages25
JournalFeminist Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2014


  • Women's work
  • agency
  • intrahousehold relations
  • kinship
  • life course
  • India

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