By Tayler Nelson
Women’s “empowerment,” defined by Naila Kabeer as “the expansion of people’s ability to make strategic life choices in a context where this ability was previously denied to them,” has been shown to be associated with greater birth spacing, lower fertility, and lower rates of unplanned pregnancy. Yet scholars disagree on how to measure women’s empowerment, and meanings of empowerment can shift across geographic and cultural contexts.
IPUMS PMA’s family planning surveys include variables that can help researchers investigate dimensions of women’s empowerment in family planning. All samples include indicators of women’s knowledge about family planning methods. Many survey rounds dig deeper, collecting data that can be used by researchers and policymakers.
The Burkina Faso 2018 Round 6 survey includes a range of variables measuring family planning attitudes, beliefs, and decision-making dynamics that relate to women’s empowerment. I used a weighted polychoric factor analysis to investigate women’s empowerment in family planning in Burkina Faso. Factor analysis can help researchers reduce a large number of observed variables by identifying similar response patterns among observed variables and grouping them into a smaller set of underlying variables, or factors. Through analyzing how variables are grouped and the strength and signs of coefficients within these groups, researchers can glean insight into which sets of observed variables might be best at measuring an unobserved construct such as women’s empowerment.