Does Women’s Land Ownership Promote Their Empowerment? Empirical Evidence from Nepal

Land rights equity is seen as an important tool for increasing empowerment and economic welfare for women in developing countries. Accordingly, the objective of this paper is to empirically examine the role of women’s land ownership, either alone or jointly, as a means of improving their intra-household bargaining power in the areas of own healthcare, major household purchases, and visiting family or relatives. Using the 2001 and 2011 Nepal Demographic and Health Surveys and relevant econometric techniques, we find that land ownership has a positive and significant impact on women’s empowerment. In particular, we find two important patterns of results. First, accounting for the endogeneity of land ownership with inverse probability weighting, coarsened exact matching and instrumental variable methods makes its impact on empowerment higher. Previous research in this area had largely ignored the potential endogeneity of land ownership. Second, the impact is generally stronger in 2011 than in 2001. As evidenced in a number of empirical studies, the increase in women’s bargaining power can in turn translate into a redirection of resources toward women’s preferences, including higher investment in human capital of the household such as education, health, and nutrition. Therefore, our study indicates that in places where agriculture is the main source of economy for women, policies enhancing land rights equity have the potential to increase women’s empowerment and associated beneficial welfare effects.
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Publication type: 
Journal article
Date published: 
Monday, February 1, 2016