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The impact of rural electrification on female labor supply and health: Evidence from post-apartheid South Africa

a PSC Small Fund Research Project

Investigator:   Taryn Dinkelman

Electricity has the potential to stimulate economic development and improve welfare in many ways. However, the micro economic literature that documents linkages between modern energy and individual work, wealth and welfare is exceedingly sparse. The experience of mass electrification in South Africa provides a unique opportunity to measure the effects of household electrification on time allocation and human capital outcomes. At the end of apartheid in 1994, only 36% of all households were electrified. Most individuals without electricity were African and poor; many lived in rural areas. From 1994 onwards, electrifying the previously disadvantaged became the new mandate. The newly elected African government flagged electrification as one priority for addressing poverty and improving welfare for the masses. In the 5 years after apartheid, 2.7 million households were electrified.

This project collects and analyzes data spanning the concentrated roll-out of modern power to measure the impact on male and female time use outside of the home (market work) and school enrollment. I focus on the rural, former homeland areas of KwaZulu-Natal province – an area that was severely disadvantaged in terms of lack of access to basic services in the mid-1990s. The aim is to derive a reduced form lower bound estimate of how access to electricity infrastructure impacts developmental outcomes at a community level. The project will also investigate how benefits of electrification are distributed within and between households. In particular, the following questions will be addressed:

Funding Period: 05/01/2006 to 04/30/2008

Country of Focus: South Africa

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