Paths to Ending Female Genital Cutting: Evidence from Income Shocks and Intra-Household Spillovers
Thursday, January 28, 2021
On-line via Zoom
3:45 pm-5:00 pm
Female genital cutting (FGC) has persisted for more than 2,000 years as an important cultural practice despite its attendant health complications. In this paper, we examine the implications of extreme weather events on families’ decisions to adhere to the practice. We find that a girl is 0.3 percentage points less likely to undergo FGC in a year in which her household experiences an unusually low level of rainfall. Further, a girl is 1.5 percentage points, or 2.1 percent, less likely to undergo the procedure in her lifetime if her household experiences an adverse rainfall realization in the year she reaches the age at which girls in her ethnic group typically undergo FGC. The procedure can command a substantial share of household income, suggesting that affordability may be one mechanism explaining our findings. These low rainfall realizations have implications not only for the girl who comes of age to undergo FGC in the year of low rainfall, but also for her younger sister who is then 3 percentage points less likely to undergo FGC herself. However, girls from ethnic groups in which FGC is performed near the age of marriage experience the smallest reduction in lifetime probability of undergoing FGC in response to low rainfall, indicating that norms are stickiest where FGC is an important premarital investment. Together, these results imply that important cultural practices are not above the influence of economic constraints and that policies aimed at reducing the rates of FGC may be more successful if implemented during lean times and well before the average age of marriage.