The determinants of women's empowerment in Pakistan: The role of household formation and employment

SafdarUllah Khan, Gulasekaran Rajaguru, Arthur Goldsmith, Ahmed Khalid

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


Many scholars and policy makers claim that advances in female empowerment offer an avenue to greater economic development for poor nations. Female employment has been identified as a determinant of women’s empowerment using a conventional husband-wife bargaining framework. We extend this conceptual model to identify the role of family structure, composition, and size on female bargain leverage and hence autonomy. Our conceptual framework has successfully identified valid threat options relevant to enhance women’s empowerment. Unfortunately, little is known empirically about the impact of such factors and female empowerment in Pakistan which has the 6th largest population in the world.

Using data on 15,524 married women drawn from the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM): 2005-2006 we estimate the level of female empowerment – measured as female control over spending in four separate spheres of household activity – controlling for endogeneity of employment and fertility. Our two-stage estimation process uses information on family culture – exogenous to the wife – regarding work and child bearing to estimate and then predict employment and fertility. These first-stage predictions are subsequently incorporated as determinants of female autonomy in the second stage. We present evidence that this approach to identification – which we introduce to the literature – is viable. We also extend the empirical literature on female autonomy by estimating models that account for the level of female autonomy, not merely if she has any at all. Our findings reveal that a number of common environmental factors – living in an extended family, with a mother in law, and other adults – undermine female autonomy, while employment and education foster female empowerment. A striking finding is that the gender of a woman’s children does not influence her level of autonomy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventThe 2017 Asian Meeting of the Econometric Society - , Hong Kong
Duration: 3 Jul 20175 Jul 2017


ConferenceThe 2017 Asian Meeting of the Econometric Society
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
Internet address


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