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Title: The impact of women's agency on subjective wellbeing and household welfare : the case of Indonesia
Author: Fernandez, Antonia
Awarding Body: University of Reading
Current Institution: University of Reading
Date of Award: 2013
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The overall aim of my research is to understand the impact of women's agency on their own subjective wellbeing and the welfare of their households. To do this, I analyse secondary data in the form of the Indonesia Family Life Surveys. The questions I ask are: How does women's agency affect their subjective wellbeing? How does women's agency affect their household and their family? This research posits that agency, which enables a person to make choices and to pursue goals that he or she views as important, has both intrinsic and instrumental value. Agency in my research is measured through household decision-making, focusing on a range of household decisions and the extent to which women participate in type of decision. Social and gender norms can act as constraints on the extent to which women can exercise their agency so agency should not be assumed to have the same meaning for men and women. But why does empowering women and increasing women's agency matter? Agency is argued to have a direct, intrinsic value because having agency gives a person the freedom to self-determine. While this does increase subjective wellbeing, my results show that this is not a simple relationship as there is also a 'burden of responsibility' effect. This can offset the benefits to subjective wellbeing from agency under certain circumstances as not all decisions in a household carry the same weight. My results indicate that for decisions seen as more important (such savings), cooperation and shared responsibility is better for men's and women's subjective wellbeing. Women's agency is also hypothesised to have an impact on the welfare of their families. In this thesis, household welfare is captured using the proxy of household expenditure on education. My results show that women's agency can have a positive impact on education expenditure but also that cooperation between spouses is very important. When ethnicity is disaggregated I find that women's sole control over particular decisions can reduce household education expenditure. This emphasizes the importance of considering the intersection of gender and ethnicity. The on-going debate on women's empowerment and economic development has so far been focused on the instrumental value of women's agency but this can be a tenuous link. My research moves this debate forward by showing that agency has intrinsic value and a direct impact on women's wellbeing thereby providing an alternative justification for policy actions aimed at empowering women.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available