Women’s political empowerment and child health in the sustainable development era: A global empirical analysis (1990–2016)
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Empowering women is presented as a key strategy to achieve several goals of the sustainable development (SDG) agenda, including child health. However, the literature on the subject shows mixed results and is limited regarding political empowerment. Responding to this gap, we explore whether women’s political empowerment is associated with positive health outcomes for children under 5 years of age. We use the V-Dem project’s ‘Women’s Political Empowerment Index’ (WPEI) in combination with selected SDG indicators of child health from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s 2017 Global Burden of Disease, for 161 countries, between 1990 and 2016. We estimate fixed-effects regressions for the WPEI against child mortality, stunting and immunisation coverage, controlling for structural and socio-economic indicators from the SDGs and potential lagged effects. The WPEI is associated with improved nutrition and immunisation but its substantive effect is small. High-, low-income and least developed countries benefit more from the effect of women’s political empowerment on child mortality. The effect of women’s political empowerment on stunting is stronger in middle-income countries while its effect on immunisation is more relevant to low-income and least developed countries. Our study demonstrates the complexity of the relations between women’s political empowerment and child health.