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Measuring women's agency (English)

Improving women's agency, namely their ability to define goals and act on them, is crucial for advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women. Yet, existing frameworks for women's agency measurement -- both disorganized and partial -- provide a fragmented understanding of the constraints women face in exercising their agency, restricting the design of quality interventions and evaluation of their impact. This paper proposes a multidisciplinary framework containing the three critical dimensions of agency: goal-setting, perceived control and ability ("sense of agency"), and acting on goals. For each dimension, the paper (i) reviews existing measurement approaches and what is known about their relative quality; (ii) presents new empirical evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa: validating vignettes as a measurement tool for goal-setting, examining gender and regional discrepancies in response to sense-of-agency measures, and investigating what information spousal disagreement over decision-making roles can provide about the intra-household process of acting on goals; and (iii) highlights priorities for future research to improve the measurement of women’s agency.


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    Donald,Aletheia Amalia, Koolwal,Gayatri B., Annan,Jeannie Ruth, Falb,Kathryn, Goldstein,Markus P.

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    Policy Research Working Paper

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    The World Region,

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    Measuring women's agency

  • Keywords

    maternal and child health care;access to health care facility;individual need;freedom of choice;country fixed effect;social learning theory;empowerment of woman;child nutritional status;types of expenses;nationally representative survey;freedom of movement;information on woman;cash crop farming;degree of confidence;health care decisions;control of asset;labor force participation;health care utilization;country income group;advancing gender equality;linkages between woman;early childhood program;health care choices;high internal validity;future research;measurement tool;gender difference;household purchases;internal consistency;positive relationship;bargaining power;agricultural activity;women's empowerment;standard error;personal decisions;Reproductive Health;power relation;livestock raising;household survey;high correlation;aggregate measure;education level;independent variable;Learning and Innovation Credit;Land Ownership;agricultural production;employment status;measurement methods;part-time employment;demographic variables;seasonal pattern;correlation coefficient;cross-country study;economics literature;empirical evidence;household decision;productive asset;adult man;geographical region;household bargaining;food crop;agricultural sector;survey questions;poverty program;targeted intervention;unobserved characteristic;cognitive theory;previous work;cultural situation;instructional strategy;curriculum aim;specific issue;marital status;open access;external influence;household welfare;visual aid;conceptual framework;savings goal;adaptation need;female entrepreneur;popular measure;robustness check;real effect;health psychology;Gender Gap;entrepreneurship training;farm employment;rank correlation;firm performance;household wealth;early adolescence;household characteristic;life satisfaction;vertical line;valuable knowledge;resource constraint;relative income;productive capital;married woman;high extent;household expenditure;basic specification;household economy;financial outcome;correlation matrix;positive correlation;asset purchase;organizational psychology;performance outcome;average score;formal schooling;multiple dimension;female respondent;hospital patients;achievement outcome;discount rate;agricultural work;community resource;adolescent students;respondents felt;gender norm;community mobilization;important component;household asset;young woman;future adaptation;employee performance;effective action;sports psychology;financial concern;financial situation;economic shock;young men;old people;cognitive science;entrepreneurial skill;program evaluation;financial resource;generally well;livestock raiser;summary statistic;rural district;central regions;negative relationship;improved health;measure of use;cultural norm;observable action;social psychology;behavioral economics;cognitive ability;intrinsic motivation;social pressure;middle school;survey methodology;social behavior;cluster analysis;external pressure;individual difference;policy perspective;community level;development policy;household saving;children's education;proxy indicator;Social Sciences;cook stove;external factor;brain imaging;agricultural productivity;qualitative research;quantitative assessment;captured agency;public life;Women's Education;diminished ability;political action;immunization status;Health Service;social domain;measurement error;gender disparity;field study;



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Donald,Aletheia Amalia Koolwal,Gayatri B. Annan,Jeannie Ruth Falb,Kathryn Goldstein,Markus P.

Measuring women's agency (English). Policy Research working paper,no. WPS 8148 Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group.