Academic journal article The Journal of Developing Areas

Female Empowerment and the Education of Children in Nepal

Academic journal article The Journal of Developing Areas

Female Empowerment and the Education of Children in Nepal

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)


In addition to being important for women, female empowerment is important to society in general. A recent survey (Doss, 2013) of the role of female empowerment for economic and social development in developing countries concludes that there is sufficient evidence from rigorous studies to conclude that women's bargaining power does affect outcomes. However, in many specific instances, the quantitative evidence cannot rigorously identify causality. As the survey demonstrates, there is a large body of literature that attempts to solve this causality problem by employing randomized controlled experiments and natural experiments or by examining variations in (instrumental) variables that are theoretically likely to affect female empowerment and not the outcomes (other than through female empowerment). The main underlying problem is that any measure of female empowerment may reflect other characteristics, norms or values of the family that are correlated with other factors, such as education, in our case. In the empirical analysis below, we investigate the role of both a subjective (self-reported influence on decisions) and objective (relative economic power) measure of empowerment.

We assume a sequential nature regarding decisions about education. The relative economic power of the natal families determines a woman's decision-making power in her own family; moreover, when her preferences differ from those of her husband, the level of education of her children will be affected. With this structure, one can either use instrumental variable (IV) regression and estimate both stages of the sequence (assuming that economic empowerment affects education only through decision-making power) or one can estimate the (reduced form) effect of relative economic power on education.

The strategy of sidestepping the intermediate direct measure of female empowerment - and thus studying empowerment indirectly - is the most common approach. The survey by Doss discusses some prominent examples of this approach from the literature. Two papers (Rangel, 2006; Deininger et al., 2010) study the effect of a change in marriage and inheritance law on the education of girls. Another paper (Qian, 2008) studies exogenous changes in sex-specific agricultural incomes and the effects on survival rates and educational attainment of children. Other studies (Quisumbing and Maluccio, 2003) find that the pre-marriage assets of women increase expenditures for education and (Fafchamps, Kebede and Quisumbing, 2009) affect children's nutrition and education.

Few papers attempt to measure female empowerment directly, and those that do typically use questions that are similar to the standard set of questions in the Demographic and Health surveys (DHS) with respect to who in the household decides on certain issues, such as household purchases or the woman's visits to relatives (which is the measure we use). An aggregate measure might be used, such as a simple average (Li and Wu, 2011) or a principal component analysis (Chakraborty and De, 2011), because many decisions are considered. Any variable that might affect the measure of female empowerment may also influence the ultimate outcome. Li and Wu manage this problem by reporting both the effect of the exogenous variable (in their case, the gender of the first-born) on the measure of female empowerment and on the dependent variable (they have a set of health and expenditure outcomes). Then, they estimate the IV regression (in which female empowerment is the endogenous variable) as a robustness check (and realize that the instrument may affect outcomes through other mechanisms than female empowerment).

We follow the strategy of Li and Wu and report both the reduced form and the two stages of the IV. However, we use a different instrument - and we do not use an aggregate empowerment index - because we prefer to identify one particular variable that is likely to measure empowerment and not education1. …

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