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A cross-national investigation of women's empowerment

Desai and Yu tap into dimensions of empowerment in household, work, and education across 28 countries

A new article published by Faculty Associate Sonalde Desai, External Faculty Affiliate Sojin Yu, and collaborator Feinian Chen in Demographic Research highlights research examining womens' empowerment cross-culturally, with a life course perspective, and with an intersectional lens.

A challenge in this field of research has been the lack of accountability for geo-cultural and socioeconomic contexts. Thus, the authors aimed to characterize relationships between women's empowerment across three contexts - household decision-making power, education, and work.

Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) data were used from 28 low- and middle-income countries, including 22 African countries and 6 Asian countries. Married women between 15 to 49 years of age were included in this analysis. 

Using latent class analysis for each country, the authors identified four profiles that classify women based on the multidimensionality of women's empowerment within and between countries. They found substantial within-country variation in the relationship between household decision-making power, education, and work. Additionally, between-country analyses uncovered mixed relationships between work, education, and decision-making power, where these constructs were positively or negatively correlated. The authors categorized each country into one of three groups based on shared latent class model structures and argue that these patterns are derived from heterogeneity in cultural expectations and the values attached to education and work.

The findings highlight the importance of contextualizing associations between dimensions of women's empowerment.

Read the full paper here.

Yu, S., Chen, F., & Desai, S. (2023). Aligning household decision-making with work and education: A comparative analysis of women’s empowerment. Demographic Research, 48, 513-548.