Measurement models of women’s autonomy using the 1998/1999 India DHS

John Sandberg, McGill University

Despite theoretical reasons to expect a positive association between women’s individual level autonomy and fertility, previous research has yielded largely negative results. In this literature dimensions of autonomy such as freedom of movement and association, power over economic decision making and freedom from domestic abuse are often operationalized using discrete survey questions or additive indexes. Such operationalizations have two principle drawbacks. First, the dimensionality assumed is a priori and untested. Second, the use of indexes assumes that each measure has an equal impact on its underlying latent dimension. This paper uses latent class measurement models with data from the 1998/1999 India DHS to test the dimensionality of autonomy (whether, for example economic decision making and freedom of movement are actually separate dimensions or are part of a more general dimension of autonomy), as well as the relative impact of specific measures on the underlying latent dimensions of autonomy identified.

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Presented in Session 100: Methodologies for data collection and analysis of gender relations