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24K Magic: Evidence on Maternal Asset Ownership and Children’s Long Term Outcomes in Indonesia

By Maya Durvasula

Household resource allocation in response to economic shocks is of central importance for policy makers, especially given widely documented evidence of gender biases. In this paper, I exploit a
plausibly exogenous shock to maternal asset holdings in Indonesia to examine gender biases in resource allocation in the wake of the 1998 East Asian Financial Crisis. Using insights from
anthropology, I separate assets in the hands of women from those controlled by men and interpret findings in the context of a household decision-making framework that allows preferences of parents to differ. Taking household-specific heterogeneity into account with fixed effects, I find significant evidence of efforts to shield male children from the effects of the crisis in both contemporaneous educational attainment and longer-term labor market outcomes, a remarkable trend given minimal evidence of a pro-son bias in Indonesia prior to the crisis. Finally, inferring preferences from maternal resource allocation, I find suggestive evidence of an old age security motive in women’s investment decisions.

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Advisor: Duncan Thomas | JEL Codes: D13, I0, J13, J16

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