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Eradicating Women-Hurting Customs: What Role for Social Engineering?

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Since the birth of modern development economics in the period immediately following World War II,
attention has been mostly directed to the determinants of long term economic growth performance
and, in a subsequent stage, to issues of income distribution and poverty reduction. The implicit
assumption was that the material level of living is the critical component of individual welfare and
that non-economic factors, social norms and practices in particular, change gradually in response to the
enlargement of opportunities that accompanies economic growth. Regarding the latter preconceived
view, pioneer development economists such as Arthur Lewis (1955), Peter Bauer and B.S. Yamey
(1957), Gerald Meier and Robert Baldwin (1957), and Alfred Hirschman (1958) did not believe that
there exist denite social and cultural prerequisites of development: norms, customs and religious
beliefs would evolve and be reinterpreted as a function of the economic environment.