Vietnamese women who hold land titles have far more prosperous households, study finds
Researchers find intriguing gender exception in nation
Poverty is less and capital investment levels higher in rural, Vietnamese households where women hold the land title. Researchers at Rutgers and Brandeis University found that while family economic security improves under private land titling regardless of gender, the benefits are more marked when a woman's name is on the title.
Vietnamese women simultaneously increased their participation in agriculture, which currently supplies jobs for 58 percent of the female labor force in Vietnam, compared with 51 percent of the male work force.
Comparing household living standards data in Vietnam from 2004 to 2008 with gender on land use documents, researchers found that household poverty was six percent lower; capital expenditure levels 10 percent higher and women's self employment six percent higher when a woman had land-use rights in her own name.
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It was found that a jointly held title - where a woman and man's name was also found on the title, also showed improved household economic security over a man holding land title alone.
"The results do provide evidence that when women have their names on the land title, there are beneficial effects for themselves and for their children," Yana Rodgers, an economist who participated in the research, said.
It's a win-win situation all around, as it was found that the health of the family's children also improves with women's ownership. Child illness fell, health insurance coverage rose, school enrolment increased and the amount of household income used for alcohol and tobacco -- as opposed to food declined when women held the land-use rights, compared with male-only or jointly-held rights.
This fact has sparked much debate. According to some estimates, women own less than 15 percent of land worldwide, even though they make up roughly 80 percent of the agricultural workers. The meager data thus far makes it tough to analyze the impact of gender and land ownership on poverty rates.
Markus Goldstein, a development economist at the World Bank, called Rodgers and her colleagues' findings "important" in a field with little documented research.
He noted that a large amount of land in developing countries remains undocumented. When land is titled, the household ownership often is not broken down by gender.
Goldstein questioned the mechanisms that might be driving the improvements in household security. Goldstein says that there was little to show that land title had strengthened women in Vietnam tapping bank credit for investment purposes.
Vietnam began moving from agricultural cooperatives to private land ownership in the late 1980s, passing a law in 1993 that gave households the power to exchange, lease and mortgage their land-use rights. This spurred one of the largest ever land titling programs in developing countries, and within seven years, 11 million land-use titles were issued to rural households.
Women simultaneously increased their participation in agriculture, which currently supplies jobs for 58 percent of the female labor force in Vietnam, compared with 51 percent of the male work force.
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