Entrepreneurship, gender and the constraints of time: a randomised experiment on the role of access to light

Wednesday, 12 October, 2016
This paper by Hassan and Lucchino (2016) provides evidence about whether access to light, which relaxes the time constraint in relation to the number of productive hours available, can stimulate the emergence of currently pent-up productive potential, particularly of women. In doing so, it also brings evidence to the broader question of whether a cheap and renewable source of energy used exclusively for lighting, like a solar lamp, allows to reap (some of) the above economic benefi ts of full scale electri fication. To understand and quantify these dynamics, we exploit random variation in solar lamp ownership among 806 parents participating in the companion randomised controlled trail on the effects of access to light on education. The authors find that access to light contributes to a diversifi cation in household livelihoods from agricultural to non-farm economic activities. This evidence is supported by a consistent set of results across time use, the incidence of diff erent productive activities, and incomes levels. To the authors' knowledge, this constitutes the fi rst robust evidence that small scale lighting source can help stimulate the very first steps in the direction of economic transformation. At the same time, the paper delivers some sobering evidence on the gender dimension of the eff ect of access to light. While they find evidence that access to light does indeed relax time constraints, and those of women in particular, they fi nd that a large part of the benefi ts of this additional time ultimately flows to men.