Do Constraints on Women Worsen Child Deprivations? Framework, Measurement, and Evidence from India

March 2019

Stephen C. Smith, Alberto Posso and Lucia Ferrone

IIEP Working Paper 2019-2

Abstract: This paper provides a framework for analyzing constraints that apply specifically to women, which theory suggests may have negative impacts on child outcomes (as well as on women). We classify women’s constraints into four dimensions: (i) domestic physical and psychological abuse, (ii) low influence on household decisions, (iii) restrictions on mobility, and (iv) limited information access. Each of these constraints are in principle determined within households. We test the impact of women’s constraints on child outcomes using nationally representative household Demographic and Health Survey data from India, including 53,030 mothers and 113,708 children, collected in 2015-16. Outcomes are measured as multidimensional deprivations, utilizing UNICEF’s Multidimensional Overlapping Deprivation Analysis index, incorporating deficiencies in children’s access to water, sanitation, housing, healthcare, nutrition, education and information. Our preferred specification follows Lewbel, constructing internal heteroskedasticity-based instruments; and we present an array of additional econometric strategies and robustness checks. We find that children of women who are subjected to domestic abuse, have low influence in decision making, and limited freedom of mobility are more likely to be deprived. Specifically, our causal analysis uncovers a robust impact of women experiencing constraints in emotional abuse, restrictions on the use of household earnings, and freedom of movement to access health facilities, on child deprivation. We conclude that societal changes that relax constraints on women may have potential complementary benefits for their children. We recommend that analyses showing welfare gains of relaxing constraints on women account for potential additional intra-household benefits, examining other channels through which they operate.

JEL Classifications: I15, I25 I32, O15

Key Words: child deprivations, MODA, child health, child nutrition, education, bargaining, empowerment, domestic abuse, mobility restrictions, information access, gendered constraints, multidimensional measurement, Lewbel estimation, instrumental variables, matching

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