Academic journal article Demographic Research

Women's Decision-Making Autonomy and Children's Schooling in Rural Mozambique

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Women's Decision-Making Autonomy and Children's Schooling in Rural Mozambique

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

The connections between women's position in the household and children's outcomes have been widely examined in the literature. Evidence from both developing and developed countries has shown that when women are in control of household resources they are more likely to act for the benefit of their children (Haddad et al. 1997; Quisumbing 2003). The positive effects of women's autonomy on child survival and nutritional status are particularly well documented (Caldwell 1986; Dyson and Moore 1983; Mason 1984). Following this evidence and the conceptualization of women's decision-making autonomy as a distinct component of women's status (Kabeer 1999; Yabiku, Agadjanian, and Sevoyan 2010), we examine the association between women's autonomy and primary school enrollment in a rural sub-Saharan setting.

The focus on women's autonomy seems particularly appropriate when analyzing factors affecting primary schooling in a context like rural sub-Saharan Africa, where direct pecuniary costs of attending primary school are usually low. In such settings, the decision-making process regarding a child's school enrollment is made not as a function of the resources available in the household and the allocation of these resources but in relation to the opportunity cost of the child's labor (Lloyd and Blanc 1996). In addition, women's perception of the opportunity cost of their children's enrollment may not be the same for boys and girls because they play gender-specific roles in economic and domestic activities. The gender bias may be magnified in settings marked by significant gender inequalities and rapid changes in the family context due to economic growth, modernization, and mobility (Yabiku, Agadjanian, and Sevoyan 2010).

This study examines the relationship between women's decision-making autonomy and children's schooling and how it differs by child's gender. Specifically, we estimate the effect of women's decision-making autonomy on the probability of attending school for male and female children between 6 and 14 years old. The analysis uses data from a 2009 survey of rural women and their households in a patrilineal setting in southern Mozambique. Our results show a positive effect of women's autonomy on the probability of being enrolled in primary school for daughters, but not for sons. The effect of women's autonomy is net of other characteristics that might be associated with women's status, and it does not mediate the effect of these characteristics. Based on these results, we argue that women with a higher level of decision-making autonomy may have a stronger preference for girls' schooling, and may have a greater say in making and implementing decisions regarding daughters' education. The higher value placed on girls' schooling can be a sign of women's changing ideas about the role of daughters and the way they envision their daughters' futures regarding returns for their education.

2. Conceptualization and hypotheses

The literature on women's status supports the view that women's status is a multidimensional complex that comprises multiple characteristics of women and their relations to others (Durrant and Sathar 2000, Roushdy 2004). Previous research has typically focused on the relationship between women's education and work and children's outcomes, showing that higher educational levels and employment are positively related to children's survival chances (Basu and Basu 1991, Hobcraft 1993, Cleland 2010) and their schooling (Lam and Duryea 1999, Buchmann and Hannum 2001). However, more recent research has also emphasized the importance of women's decision-making autonomy for children's outcomes (e.g., Durrant and Sathar 2000, Yabiku, Agadjanian, and Sevoyan 2010, Shroff et al. 2011). The concept of women's autonomy is usually defined in terms of women's ability to formulate, negotiate, and carry out their preferences (Smith et al. 2003, Ghuman, Lee, and Smith 2006). As a distinct dimension of women's status, decision-making autonomy captures aspects of women's status that are not represented in the conventional measures. …

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