Essex academic wins award to address violence against women using economics

  • Date

    Tue 31 Mar 20

Woman holding up her hand in front of her face.

An Essex academic has won a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant in order to generate new evidence that could influence international policy-making around violence against women.

Professor Sonia Bhalotra from our Department of Economics is one of 185 scientists who will receive part of the total €450 million fund from the ERC, and she is the only female economist among this year’s award winners. 
Violence against women restricts a woman’s freedom, causes physical and psychological harm and is a major contributing factor to gender inequality around the world. 

Estimates from the United States indicate that violence against women costs in excess of $5.8 billion in the form of medical care and productivity shortfalls – and yet, it is an area that has drawn little attention from economists. 

Professor Bhalotra’s research will run for five years until 2025. She said: “I feel delighted and privileged. I feel that it is not only I but also this topic that has been recognised; it is only quite recently that economists have started working in this area.”

 “There is a growing consensus to prioritise violence against women in law-making across the world. However, the evidence base is thin. One reason for this is that women are reluctant to report violence, and no country gathers systematic time series data on domestic violence or sexual harassment in the workplace and public places. 

“I intend to acquire, generate and analyse currently unavailable or under-used data in order to produce a rich tapestry of scientific evidence to guide policy and further research.

“For example, does bringing judicial cases of sexual harassment hurt the careers of women? Does raising the share of women in the judiciary influence sentencing on cases of violence against women? 

“Does male unemployment increase incidents of domestic violence, and do unemployment benefits mitigate any impact?  Do training programmes for male perpetrators work, and is their success conditional on instilling behavioural change among women?”

Professor Mauro Ferrari, President of the ERC said: “I am glad to announce a new round of ERC grants that will back cutting-edge, exploratory research, set to help Europe and the world to be better equipped for what the future may hold. 

“That’s the role of blue sky research. These senior research stars will cut new ground in a broad range of fields, including the area of health. I wish them all the best in this endeavour and, at this time of crisis, let me pay tribute to the heroic and invaluable work of the scientific community as a whole.”

It is anticipated that, in total, the Advanced Grant research projects will lead to the creation of approximately 1,800 new jobs for post-doctoral fellows, PhD students and other research staff. 

The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe