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Empowering Women, Strengthening Children: A Multi-Level Analysis of Gender Inequality and Child Malnutrition in Developing Countries

Publication Date Aug 24, 2016

Abstract

Abstract Purpose Previous research assumes that economic development is the key to increasing the food supply and alleviating child malnutrition. However, economic development alone does not promise that income is distributed fairly, nor does it guarantee that other human needs will be fulfilled. What has been missing from cross-national research is an analysis of how gender inequality shapes women’s abilities to effectively maintain food security. The current study contributes to this literature by exploring the multidimensional effects of women’s empowerment on child stunting and wasting. Methodology/approach Pooling data from the Demographic and Health Surveys and the World Bank, the analysis estimates a series of multi-level models that examine the country-level influences on malnutrition, while also accounting for household and maternal characteristics that affect food security at the individual level. Findings Results suggest that improvements in women’s education, control over reproduction, representation in national politics, and life expectancy correspond to improvements in child malnutrition. Notably, the effects of gender inequality are comparable to or larger than those of economic development. The multi-level modeling technique illustrates how social forces that are larger than the individual shape the chances of experiencing food insecurity. Research limitations Cross-national data are limited in scope and cannot prove causality. Further research is also needed to better understand the proce...

Concepts
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Representation In National Politics
Effects Of Gender Inequality
Affect Food Security
Equitable Rights
Advances In Rights
Food Security
Child Malnutrition
Child Stunting
Cross-national Research
Economic Development

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