Denying the Daughters

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Development economists have shown that supporting women’s inheritance rights is an effective policy in empowering women in developing countries. However, according to the United Nations, only 38 percent of the countries have laws that ensure women’s equal access to inheritance. Hence, it is essential to identify the factors that contribute to equal inheritance laws for women. This article focuses on equal inheritance laws for daughters, considering that a girl discriminated against at her natal home is likely to be discriminated against in other institutions. It is argued that countries where women have access to education, work, and politics and who can make decisions about their marriage and divorce are likely to have equal inheritance rights regardless of the nation’s economic development. This study, which uses data from 74 developing countries, finds that women’s access to secondary-level education relative to men, their work as legislators, and access to the internet are the strongest predictors of having equal inheritance laws for daughters. The study also finds that it is essential to have social norms that let women choose their partners and laws that allow them to initiate divorce. These norms and laws reduce private patriarchy and create a favorable ground for daughters’ equal inheritance laws.