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Pathways to well-being: the role of female education and empowerment in Bangladesh

Hossain, M. (2018) Pathways to well-being: the role of female education and empowerment in Bangladesh. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Female education and empowerment are both prerequisites for, and outcomes of, sustainable economic development. This dissertation empirically examines the extent to which women’s empowerment results in well-being within the household. To this end, we use a nationally representative cross-sectional household survey dataset viz. Bangladesh Integrated Household Survey (BIHS) 2012. This dataset has unique information on various aspects of well-being for both primary male and female members of the same household along with empowerment data across five domains e.g. agricultural production decisions, access to productive resources, control of income, community leadership, and time allocation. We begin by exploring mechanisms through which mothers’ formal education impacts three health indicators—height, weight, and immunisation—for a sample of 887 children. We consider a range of pathways including mother’s participation in the income generating activities, autonomy in spending decisions, exposure to media, access to health information, health knowledge, use of antenatal service, and diversified diet. In addition to including these pathway variables to pick up ‘unobservable’ variation in the error term, we also include controls for differences in parental health, household income, location, and demographic characteristics of the children. Irrespective of inclusion of the pathway variables, maternal education is found significantly and positively correlated with child health markers; while father's education is found insignificant throughout. Next we analyse whether mothers’ empowerment, measured by a five-domain empowerment index, has any impact on (a) household members’ nutrient intake, (b) the household’s diet composition, and (c) the intra-household allocation of food. Since these food security indicators and mothers’ empowerment may be influenced by common unobservable household-specific gender norms, we instrument the latter using information on the number of community activities in which the mothers had participated in the past 12 months. While greater involvement in community activities is expected to empower the mothers; it is unlikely to have any direct causal impact on individuals’ nutrient intake and dietary variation. The regression results, based on a sample of household members from 3,843 agricultural households, show that mothers’ empowerment significantly increases not only the household members’ calorie and protein intake but also the households’ dietary diversity. Mothers’ education is also positively correlated with the households’ dietary diversity. Finally we examine whether empowerment influences the subjective well-being (SWB)— measured in terms of life satisfaction scores—of women once again using data from the 3,843 agricultural households. The ordered probit estimates show a positive association between the empowerment index and SWB: notably women appeared significantly happier than their husbands after accounting for the difference in common household, community, and demographic (e.g. religion) characteristics. Education is found to improve the SWB of both, yet its impact is stronger for the women. Given the possibility of reverse causation between empowerment and life satisfaction, we estimate the SWB function using the instrumental variable (IV) method. We use the average number of community activities participated in by women at village level in order to instrument their empowerment index. The IV results suggest that while women’s life satisfaction is significantly determined by empowerment; men’s life satisfaction is not. The gender gap in well-being partly arises owing to the fact that men and women differ in respect of drawing satisfaction from different domains of the empowerment. To conclude, our study underscores both the instrumental as well as the intrinsic importance of women’s education and empowerment for the well-being of households.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Kambhampati, U. and Asadullah, N.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Politics, Economics & International Relations
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Economics
ID Code:77842
Date on Title Page:2017


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