Female autonomy in household decision-making and intimate partner violence: evidence from Pakistan

Abstract

The aim of this study is to explore the links between female autonomy in household decision-making and intimate partner violence in a highly relevant yet under-studied context: Pakistan. Using a nationally representative dataset, and employing matching and partial identification estimation approaches, we show that an increase in female autonomy in household decision-making is associated with a decrease in the probability of experiencing intimate partner violence. Moreover, female autonomy is also associated with lower tolerance for intimate partner violence. Our results call for a greater focus on female autonomy in policy efforts concerned with reducing intimate partner violence.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Although domestic violence can be experienced by males and among the same-sex couples, globally the bulk of domestic violence appears to be directed at females (Vanderende et al. 2012; WHO 2012). Therefore, the focus of our paper is on domestic violence directed at females, particularly IPV.

  2. 2.

    This ambiguity is also found in non-economics studies, such as the study by Peek-Asa et al. (2011), who report that domestic violence rates are higher in southern India relative to the northern states, despite evidence of south Indian females having greater decision-making autonomy. Similar findings are reported in several other studies (Atkinson et al. 2005; Choi and Ting 2008; Jewkes et al. 2002; Schuler and Nazneen 2018; Schuler et al. 1998).

  3. 3.

    The study additionally examines the relationship going from female decision-making autonomy to IPV. The authors hypothesise that the husband is more likely to resort to violence if he can physically overpower his wife, and accordingly use the index of woman’s height as an instrument for IPV to study its effect on female autonomy. However, the exclusion restriction in this instrumental variable estimation hinges upon the strong assumption that the relationship between woman’s height and autonomy is entirely mediated by IPV. The results of their OLS regression of female autonomy on IPV are statistically insignificant.

  4. 4.

    While a relatively large number of observations on measures of female decision-making autonomy are missing, we have verified that this non-response item is not correlated with the outcome variable in the analysis.

  5. 5.

    This can in some part be explained by sample selection; e.g. the practice of bride burning is unlikely to be recorded in the survey since the woman is unlikely to have survived this particular form of IPV.

  6. 6.

    It is possible that own and husband’s employment status are endogeneous in the context of this study. To address the implications of such possibility for the results, we re-estimated the baseline model excluding employment status variables from the list of covariates which left the results unaffected (available on request).

  7. 7.

    As a robustness check, we also report estimates based on the conventional propensity score matching techniques (Rosenbaum and Rubin 1983).

  8. 8.

    For recent applications, see Carter et al. (2017), Couttenier et al. (2017), Mavisakalyan et al. (2018).

  9. 9.

    Due to space considerations we focus on the estimates on Female decides in all situations here. The expanded set of results with estimates on all variables included in models reported in columns (2) and (3) of Table 2 are presented in Table 9 of the Appendix. We find that females with over primary-level schooling are less likely to experience IPV but those engaged in paid work more likely to do so – a result consistent with previous research (Naved and Amin 2013; Naved and Persson 2005). IPV prevalence is also lower for females whose husbands have over primary-level schooling and are employed. The probability of IPV also goes up with an increase in the number of children in the household; furthermore higher share of sons is positively associated with the probability of IPV while the association of IPV with the share of teenager or adult children is negative. IPV is less prevalent amongst relatively rich households.

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Correspondence to Astghik Mavisakalyan.

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Appendix

Appendix

Tables 79

Table 7 Summary statistics of control variables
Table 8 Covariate balancing
Table 9 Female decision-making autonomy and IPV—baseline results expanded

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Mavisakalyan, A., Rammohan, A. Female autonomy in household decision-making and intimate partner violence: evidence from Pakistan. Rev Econ Household 19, 255–280 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11150-020-09525-8

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Keywords

  • Female autonomy
  • Household decision-making
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Pakistan

JEL codes

  • J12
  • D10
  • O12.