“He said, she said”: who should speak for households about experiences of food insecurity in Bangladesh?
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This paper examines the extent to which males and females from the same household respond differently to household food insecurity questions, and explores the reasons for these differences and the impact for measurement. The data derive from the 2001–2003 Bangladesh Food Insecurity Measurement and Validation Study. Male and female enumerators administered the food insecurity questionnaire to women and men in the same household during three survey rounds and debriefed a subsample of men and women regarding their response discrepancies. The rate of discordance in male-female responses to individual items was examined using contingency tables. Potential explanations for the discordance were informed by the joint respondent debriefing. These hypotheses were assessed through an examination of response patterns. To assess the impact of discordance on measurement, female and male responses to a scale of 13 food insecurity items were compared and the degree of differential classification was assessed. On average the rate of discordance was 15%, but it ranged for particular items from less than 1% to upwards of 53%. Item content interacted with gender to produce discordance; women and men seemed to respond differently due to separate spheres of responsibility within the same household, power imbalances influencing intra-household food allocation, and because men seemed to take more psychological responsibility for ensuring the household food supply. Nearly one-third of households were classified in a different food security category using female versus male responses to the items. The results suggest that the household food insecurity construct is not as useful in places like Bangladesh where certain food insecurity-related manifestations are not collectively or similarly shared by members of the same living space. Individual-level measures of food insecurity are needed to complement household data, along with surveys that allow for proportionate representation of potentially vulnerable individuals with different demographic characteristics across the population.
KeywordsGender Household food insecurity Measurement Scale
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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