Legal Origins and HIV
April 15, 2015Poverty and Applied Microeconomics Seminar Series

Siwan Anderson (University of British Columbia) will present the results of recent research.

Speaker: Siwan Anderson is Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia. Her main research focuses on development economics and micro-level institutions. She also works on the role of gender. Recent projects include studies of rural governments and credit cooperative in India and missing women in developing countries. More »

Abstract: More than half of all people living with HIV are women and approximately 80% of all HIV positive women in the world live in Sub-Saharan Africa. This paper demonstrates that the legal origins of these formally colonized countries significantly determines current day female HIV rates. In particular, female HIV rates are significantly higher in common law Sub-Saharan African countries compared to civil law ones. This paper explains this relationship by focusing on differences in female property rights under the two codes of law. In Sub-Saharan Africa, common law is associated with weaker female marital property laws. As a result, women in these common law countries have lower bargaining power within the household and are less able to negotiate safer sex and are thus more vulnerable to HIV, compared to their civil law counterparts. Exploiting the fact that some ethnic groups in Sub-Saharan Africa cross country borders with different legal systems, we are able to include ethnicity fixed effects into these estimations. This allows us to control for a large set of confounding factors that might determine female property rights. The results of this paper are consistent with gender inequality (the "feminization of AIDS") explaining much of its prevalence in Sub-Saharan Africa. The estimates suggest that legal reform towards more equitable marital property rights could lead to at least 1.3 million fewer women living with HIV.


Last Updated: Apr 09, 2015

The Poverty and Applied Micro Seminar Series is a weekly series hosted by the World Bank's research department. The series invites leading researchers in applied microeconomics from the fields of poverty, human development and public service delivery, agriculture and rural development, political economy, behavioral economics, private sector development, and a range of other fields to present the results of their most recent research in a seminar format. The full list of seminars can be viewed here.

Event Details
  • Date: April 15, 2015
  • Location: World Bank Headquarters, MC 4-301 (new room)
  • Time: 12:30 - 2:00 p.m.
  • CONTACT: Anna Bonfield