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Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

Seasonal Time Trade-Offs and Nutrition Outcomes for Women in Agriculture: Evidence from Rural India


Women in agriculture are involved in agricultural activities and are solely responsible for household-level unpaid work. They face severe time trade-offs between agricultural and household activities across crop seasons. Recent literature suggests that these time trade-offs may negatively impact their nutrition. However, there is no quantitative evidence exploring this relationship within an agricultural context. This paper addresses this research gap by analyzing the relationship between women’s time trade-offs and their nutritional outcomes. Using a unique ten-month primary panel data of 960 women from India, our findings show that women are severely time-constrained, as they contribute significantly to agricultural as well as domestic work. Our results show that during peak seasons relative to lean seasons, women’s time trade-offs (rising opportunity cost of time) are negatively associated with the intake of calories, proteins, iron,zinc and Vitamin A. We show that this negative relationship is manifested severely among women who are landless and cultivate paddy alone (food crop) or paddy and cotton (mixed crop). This study highlights the gendered role of agricultural activities in rural households and the need to recognize time as a scarce resource when implementing policies and programs involving women in agriculture. We contribute to the literature of agriculture-nutrition linkages by examining the the time use pathway in detail. Besides providing novel metrics, we discuss several policy implications to reduce women’s time constraints and enhance their nutrition.

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