Does women’s empowerment reduce gender inequalities in adolescent nutritional status? Evidence from the Indonesian Family Life Survey

Yohanes Kunto & Hilde Bras

Paper presented at the conference on Adolescence, Youth and Gender: Building Knowledge for Change, Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, 8-9 September 2016

ABSTRACT: Recent studies show that women’s empowerment is a key factor in improving child nutrition. However, in contrast to the extensive knowledge on children under-five, the relation between mother’s position and adolescent nutritional status, including possible gender inequalities therein, is less well-known. We examined associations between women’s empowerment and gender inequality in adolescent nutrition using data from the Indonesian Family Life Survey (IFLS). Our pooled sample consists of 13,899 observations of 10,439 adolescents belonging to 4,956 families over the period 1993 to 2015. We use mother’s years of education completed, mother’s bargaining power, and mother’s labour force participation as empowerment indicators. We analyse relationships of these three indicators with adolescent’s height-for-age and BMI-for-age. Our results show gender differences for BMI-for-age but not for height-for-age. We find boys are on average, thinner than girls. Our random-effect models show that women’s empowerment have significant positive associations with height-for-age. However, only the mother’s labour force participation holds the same positive associations with BMI-for-age. Our fixed-effects models comparing nutritional status of boys and girls from the same family show smaller BMI-for-age gaps for those whose mothers were more educated. We find boys of these well-educated mothers consume more instant noodle, soft drink, and fried snacks. Thus, indicating unhealthy ways to compensate boys’ thinness. The fact that boys-girls differences in food consumption do not exist for those who were born to less-educated mothers suggests gender bias in new disguise

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