Social Indicators Research

, Volume 128, Issue 3, pp 1171–1192 | Cite as

Measurement of Women’s Agency in Egypt: A National Validation Study

  • Kathryn M. YountEmail author
  • Kristin E. VanderEnde
  • Sylvie Dodell
  • Yuk Fai Cheong


Despite widespread assumptions about women’s empowerment and agency in the Arab Middle East, psychometric research of these constructs is limited. Using national data from 6214 married women ages 16–49 who took part in the 2006 Egypt Labor Market Panel Survey, we applied factor analysis to explore and then to test the factor structure of women’s agency. We then used multiple indicator multiple cause structural equations models to test for differential item functioning (DIF) by women’s age at first marriage, a potential resource for women’s agency. Our results confirm that women’s agency in Egypt is multi-dimensional and comprised of their (1) influence in family decisions, including those reserved for men, (2) freedom of movement in public spaces, and (3) attitudes about gender, specifically violence against wives. These dimensions confirm those explored previously in selected rural areas of Egypt and South Asia. Yet, three items showed significant uniform DIF by women’s categorical age at first marriage, with and without a control for women’s age in years. Models adjusting for DIF and women’s age in years showed that women’s older age at first marriage was positively associated with the factor means for family decision-making and gender-violence attitudes, but not freedom of movement. Our findings reveal the value of our analytical strategy for research on the dimensions and determinants of women’s agency. Our approach offers a promising model to discern “hierarchies of evidence” for social policies and programs to enhance women’s empowerment.


Egypt Egypt Labor Market Panel Survey Measurement invariance Women’s empowerment Women’s agency 



This work was supported by research Grant 1 R03 HD076368-01/02 from the National Institutes of Health (PI Dr. Kathryn Yount).We thank Dr. Ragui Assaad for methodological guidance, Dr. Rania Salem for comments during the drafting of this paper, and Ms. Caroline Krafft for her patient responses to our data queries. The Economic Research Forum granted the researchers access to relevant data, after subjecting data to processing aiming to preserve the confidentiality of individual data. The researchers are solely responsible for the conclusions and inferences drawn upon available data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kathryn M. Yount
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kristin E. VanderEnde
    • 2
  • Sylvie Dodell
    • 3
  • Yuk Fai Cheong
    • 4
  1. 1.Hubert Department of Global Health and Department of SociologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Hubert Department of Global HealthEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Hubert Department of Global Health and Department of EpidemiologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Division of Educational StudiesEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA

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