Media Briefings

HOW TO MEASURE WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT IN THE HOUSEHOLD: A new approach

  • Published Date: July 2018

How much would a woman be willing to pay when offered a ‘conditional cash transfer’ to her household in order to keep it for herself, rather than having it go to her husband. That is the new measure of women’s empowerment in the household developed in research by Ingvild Almås, Alex Armand, Orazio Attanasio and Pedro Carneiro.

Their study, which is published in the July 2018 Economic Journal, uses the measure to examine the effect of the Macedonian ‘Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) for Secondary School Education’, a cash transfer programme supporting secondary school enrolment across poor households.

The results show that women are not only willing to sacrifice some household income to receive the money and gain more power over resources, but also that they are less willing to sacrifice household income to gain power when they have been previously receiving a gender-targeted cash transfer.

More…

The Sustainable Development Goals highlight the importance of women’s empowerment for the Post-2015 Development Agenda and set an ambitious goal: achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls. But it remains unclear how these specific targets will be set and measured.

In the past few decades, female empowerment has been measured primarily through survey questions and mainly focusing on the participation of women in household decision-making. The more decisions in which a woman would participate, the more empowered she would be.

This type of measurement was also used to understand the impact of a typical policy tool to target female empowerment in developing countries: women-targeted cash transfers. These programmes transfer income to women with the objective of increasing their control of household resources, and therefore their participation in decision-making.

The Mexican programme PROGRESA/Oportunidades is one clear example. While many studies find that this type of intervention does shift household outcomes in a substantive fashion, they do not seem to have had an effect on empowerment.

Have targeted-transfers programmes failed at empowering women or we are failing to measure it?

The new study proposes an alternative quantitative measure of women’s empowerment within the household. This measure is based on observing women’s choices in a lab setting and focuses on understanding how much a woman would be willing to pay when offered a transfer to her household in order to keep it for herself, rather than having her husband receiving it.

This measure is then used to study the effect of the Macedonian ‘Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) for Secondary School Education’, a cash transfer programme supporting secondary school enrolment across poor households.

The CCT programme was implemented by randomly allocating the country’s municipalities into two groups, in which the objective of increasing female empowerment fundamentally differed: in one group, the transfer was paid to the woman in the household, as is standard in women-targeted programmes; while in the other group, it was paid to the household head, generally the man.

Using the lab measure and comparing women in these two groups makes it possible to study the effect of receiving these transfers on the new measure of empowerment.

The results show that women are not only willing to sacrifice some household income to receive the money and gain more power over resources, but also that they are less willing to sacrifice household income to gain power when they have been previously receiving a gender-targeted cash transfer. Nonetheless, even in this case, self-reported questions of empowerment cannot highlight any effect.

The researchers conclude:

‘If we aim at targeting empowerment, we need to encourage these types of experimentations around measurement of direct indicators of empowerment.’

‘Focusing on aggregate indicators or self-reported answers is failing to capture the real nature of empowerment.’

******************************************


Measuring and Changing Control: Women Empowerment and Targeted Transfers’ by Ingvild Almås, Alex Armand, Orazio Attanasio and Pedro Carneiro.

Ingvild Almås is at the Institute for International Economic Studies, Stockholm. Alex Armand is at the University of Navarra. Orazio Attanasio and Pedro Carneiro are at University College London.

For further information: contact Romesh Vaitilingam on +44-7768-661095 (email: romesh@vaitilingam.com; Twitter: @econromesh); or Alex Armand via email: aarmand@unav.es