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Women’s empowerment and child nutrition in polygynous households of Northern Ghana

Bourdier, Tomoé

No 1809, IFPRI discussion papers from International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Abstract: Weather shocks and other shocks affecting the economy of farm households often trigger a cascade of coping mechanisms, from reducing food consumption to selling assets, with potentially lasting consequences on child development. In polygynous households (in which a man is married to several women), the factors that may aggravate or mitigate the impacts of such adverse events are still poorly understood. In particular, little is known about the complex mechanisms through which women’s empowerment may affect the allocation of household resources in the presence of more than one female decision-maker. Where polygyny is associated with discriminatory social norms, co-wives may have limited bargaining power, which may translate into poorer outcomes for their children. While competition between co-wives may generate inefficiencies in the allocation of household resources, cooperation in the domains of agricultural production or domestic labor may lead to economies of scale and facilitate informal risk sharing. The rank of each co-wife may also have a strong influence on the welfare of her own children, relative to other children. Using the Feed the Future Ghana Population Survey data, I investigate the relationship between polygyny and children’s nutrition, and how it may be mediated through women’s bargaining power. Using the age of each co-wife as a proxy for rank, I also study how the senior-wife status of a mother may influence her children’s nutrition outcomes.

Keywords: GHANA; WEST AFRICA; AFRICA SOUTH OF SAHARA; AFRICA; empowerment; gender; women; nutrition; polygamy; bargaining power; child health; child nutrition; diet; child feeding (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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Handle: RePEc:fpr:ifprid:1809