Under Pressure: the impact of mental load on women's productivity and occupational choices - experimental evidence from Kenya.

Job Market Paper (click here to read the latest version of the paper)

with Francesco Cecchi and Chiara Rapallini

Mental load is a widespread but invisible psychological burden. It mainly affects women, by constantly loading them with pressing concerns related to household management and children’s well-being. In this study, we investigate whether mental load reduces labor productivity and leads to a self-selection into less cognitive and remunerative jobs, and whether its impact is gender-differentiated. We conduct a lab-in-the-field experiment with more than 700 participants in Nairobi, in which we randomly trigger thoughts related to mental load and then ask to perform an automatic or a more cognitively-demanding task. Results show that mental load reduces productivity in the automatic task, but not in the cognitively demanding one. At the same time, when given the opportunity, treated participants are more likely to self-select precisely into the less remunerative automatic task. A heterogeneity analysis shows that mental load reduces only women's labor productivity in the automatic task, while the self-selection effect is driven by men. This study provides evidence of an understudied psychological channel that, by creating a negative performance loop, widens the gender productivity gap and contributes to the reinforcement of the psychological poverty traps identified in the literature.

Presented at: SEEDEC 2022 - Symposium on Economic Experiments in Developing Countries (Bogotà); BEEC 2022 - Bogota Experimental Economics Conference (Bogota); ESA 2022 - 2022 European Economic Science Association Meeting (Bologna); ADE International Workshop (Lahore School of Economics, Online)

Thriving in the rain: natural shocks, time allocation, and empowerment in Bangladesh

with Gianna Claudia Giannelli

Differences in time use patterns between men and women are particularly pronounced in developing countries, and they can be exacerbated by climate change and natural shocks. By employing georeferenced and longitudinal panel data, this paper investigates the impact of the dramatic flood that occurred in Bangladesh in 2017 on time use patterns of both men and women and on women's empowerment. Results show that the shock led women to engage more in market activities, to decrease their time spent in domestic work, and to be more empowered, while men decreased their time spent at work and they engaged more in housework substituting for women’s domestic work. To further understand the mechanisms behind this shift in time allocation, we then exploit another flooding event that occurred in 2014 and we conduct a heterogeneity analysis. There are significant differences in time use patterns and empowerment measures between women affected by the flood in 2014 and those who were not. These findings suggest that the shock in 2014 led to an increase in women’s empowerment that persists over time and that influences the response to the shock in 2017 for both men and women.

Presented at: 2022 DEVECONMEET - Development Economists Meeting (Florence); 2022 CSAE Conference (University of Oxford, Online); SEEDS Workshop (Online); 29th IAFFE Conference (Online)

Depression and economic preferences through the lens of gender. Lessons from Mexico.

Women are more likely than men to suffer from depression, and in low- and middle-income countries this difference is even more exacerbated. This study analyzes the relationship between depression, economic preferences, cognitive abilities, and daily activities in Mexico using a gendered perspective. The analysis relies on a longitudinal, representative dataset that contains detailed information on risk-taking and time discounting behaviors, and on individuals' emotional status. Results show that depression increases women's risk-taking behavior while decreasing their time discounting and cognitive abilities. This, in turn, appears to be translating into changes in women's health and saving behaviors, and these associations are stronger for women living in poverty. The mediation analysis reveals that, whereas anhedonia and sleep deprivation have the greatest influence on time discounting, negative attitudes about the future have the greatest influence on risk aversion.

Presented at: 2021 DEVECONMEET - Development Economists Meeting (Florence)


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