Do Changes in Inheritance Legislation Improve Women's Access to Physical and Human Capital? Evidence from India's Hindu Succession Act

This paper examines whether and to what extent changes in inheritance legislation impact women's physical and human capital investments using disaggregated household level data from India. We use inheritance patterns over three generations of individuals to assess the impact of changes in the Hindu Succession Act that grant daughters equal coparcenary birth rights in joint family property that were denied to daughters in the past. The causal effect is isolated by exploiting the variation in the timing of father's death to compare within household bequests of land given to sons and daughters in the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka. We show that the amendment significantly increased daughters' likelihood to inherit land, but that even after the amendment significant bias persists. Our results also indicate a significant increase in educational attainment of daughters, suggesting an alternative channel of wealth transfer.

Klaus Deininger, Aparajita Goyal, Hari K. Nagarajan
Jan 2012