Women's Mobility, Employment and Empowerment in the Muslim World (2020-2021)


Women’s mobility and employment are severely limited in many countries with conservative gender norms. Restrictions to women’s mobility are an issue in most of South Asia and the Muslim world, regions with a total population of 1.5 billion people. In many of these settings, in order for a woman to travel independently, she may have to break taboos against coming into close contact with unrelated men, and she may be subject to harassment. These restrictions are likely to have a major impact on women’s opportunities to join the workforce, engage socially and civically, make independent purchasing decisions and use public services.

Limited access to information is also a constraint on women’s access to employment and economic empowerment. Despite the importance of social networks for job searching, in settings with social gender segregation or strong traditional gender roles, women have very limited access to job networks.

Project Description

This project will explore the constraints to women’s mobility and employment and engage with a set of randomized controlled trials currently in progress in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. These trials are evaluating the impact of alternative policies to improve women’s access to physical mobility, as well as social and economic engagement.

In the wake of the Saudi government’s historic reversal of the ban on women driving, this project team will use a randomized controlled trial that tests the impact of providing free driving training for low-income women in Riyadh. The majority of women who were selected for the free driving training have now completed and passed their drivers’ tests. The team will use follow-up surveys to examine how the training has impacted women’s lives and improved their social, political and economic engagement. Team members will also test how women benefit from the information about an alternative mode of transport, a government subsidy covering 80% of the cost of commuting to work using ride-hailing services.

In Pakistan, the team will work with a think tank to run a set of field experiments with thousands of employers and male and female jobseekers. The team will design, implement and evaluate the impacts of different interventions to help jobseekers. By comparing the effects of the same interventions for men and women, the project will research the most effective approaches for targeting the gender gap in employment.

Anticipated Outputs

Three or four academic journal articles on the quantitative analysis of the impacts of the interventions; student-led qualitative academic journal article; policy briefs; data for future research


Summer 2020 – Spring 2021

  • Summer 2020 (optional): Complete fieldwork in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

  • Fall 2020: Collect, analyze and visualize data; draft reports and papers; write blog posts and policy briefs

  • Spring 2021: Collect, analyze and visualize data; draft reports and papers; write blog posts and policy briefs

Woman in hijab.

Team Leaders

  • Erica Field, Arts & Sciences-Economics
  • Katherine Vyborny, Arts & Sciences-Economics

/graduate Team Members

  • /graduate
  • Zoha Farooqi, Global Health - MS
  • Vaishali Jain, Economics and Computation-MS
  • Nikita Kohli, Public Policy Studies-PHD
  • Jose Montano Campos, Economics and Computation-MS, Economics-PHD
  • Adam Soliman, Economics-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • /undergraduate
  • Saba Ali, Int Comparative Studies (AB)
  • Rand Alotaibi, Earth & Ocean Sciences (BS)
  • Arielle Hutchinson, Statistical Science (BS), Int Comparative Studies (AB2)
  • Sarah Xu

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Robert Garlick, Arts & Sciences-Economics

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Al-Nahda Society
  • Center for Economic Research in Pakistan