In contrast with global trends, India has witnessed a secular decline in women’s employment rates over the past few decades. We investigate this decline in rural areas, where the majority of Indian women reside. Using parametric and semi-parametric decomposition techniques, we show that changes in individual and household attributes fully account for the fall in women’s labor force participation in 1987–1999 and account for more than half of the decline in 1999–2011. Our findings underscore increasing education levels among rural married women and the men in their households as the most prominent attributes contributing to this decline. We provide suggestive evidence that changes in more educated women’s relative returns to home production compared with market production may have adversely affected female labor force participation in rural India.
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