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Department ofEconomics


Household Asset Wealth and Female Labor Supply in MENA

Shireen AlAzzawi and Vladimir Hlasny

ERF Working Paper No. 1202, May 2018

Household Asset Wealth and Female Labor Supply in MENA - Economic Research Forum (ERF)


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Female labor force participation rates in the Middle East and North Africa are low compared to other world regions. This study contributes to the literature explaining this phenomenon in Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia by referring to women’s unearned incomes, whether in the form of household wealth, the presence of male earners in the household, or expected wages in the labor market. We estimate probability models of women’s labor force participation, accounting for wealth indices based on households’ productive and non-productive assets. Recognizing the role of wealth, estimation is repeated by household wealth quintile. We find that the higher the wealth index of a woman’s household, the less likely the woman is to participate in the labor force. This result holds even when the presence of a male wage worker in the household is accounted for, and when own expected wages are included. Regional degree of wealth inequality has bearing on women’s labor force participation, but the results differ between Egypt, on the one hand, and Jordan and Tunisia, on the other hand. Overall, the magnitudes of the substitution and income effects of wages on women’s labor force participation vary by country and survey wave, and particularly between women in different wealth quintiles.


LSB Research, ECON, Shireen Al-Azzawi, Working Papers