Working Paper
Hidden from the data

Landholding patterns and women’s low work participation rates in West Bengal, India

Compared with most other Indian states, women’s reported work participation rates have historically been low in West Bengal. This trend is more prominent in rural areas. Historians have tried to explain this phenomenon in terms of culture and the ideology of domesticity.

While persisting cultural prohibitions must have some explanatory merit, it is difficult to understand how social attitudes have remained significantly unchanged over a long period of time in a state where there is considerable economic distress.

The objective of this paper is to understand whether economic factors help to sustain cultural traits, and if so, what those economic factors are.

More specifically, it tries to see whether the low visibility of working women in published data can also be explained by factors such as landholding patterns. The paper is based on secondary data.