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Working Paper

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Women’s status has received considerable attention as a significant factor in demographic behavior and outcomes in South Asia however, little research has addressed the links between women’s status and their investments in children. In this paper, we empirically investigate how women’s status on multiple levels is associated with demographic outcomes. Using data from the Pakistan Status of Women and Fertility Survey in rural Punjab, we confirm that empowered women, or those with higher status, are better able to make positive investments in their children, thus increasing their children’s chances of survival during infancy and increasing their likelihood of ever attending school. It is in examining these two outcomes in combination that the multiple dimensions of women’s status at the micro and macro levels become most apparent. Overall, the data support our hypotheses that improvements in women’s status at the individual level, particularly in terms of improvement of women’s position within the household, will enhance child survival, whereas improvements in women’s status at the more general community level will improve the schooling chances of children, especially girls. Specifically, higher levels of women’s status at the individual level, particularly in terms of access to financial resources and the absence of purdah restriction and physical abuse by husbands, are associated with a lower likelihood of infant mortality. On the other hand, higher mean levels of women’s mobility and lower levels of fear of disagreeing with husbands in a community are associated with a higher likelihood that children, especially girls, will ever attend school.