Are the Female Headed Households More Food Insecure? Evidence from Bangladesh
This paper uses household and village level survey data to investigate the food security of male and female headed households in Bangladesh with particular attention to indigenous ethnic groups. Given the broadness of the concept of food security and complexities of choosing any particular metric, we depend on the perceptions of the respondents about their own food security status. Based on food production, availability, purchasing power and access to common resources, the respondents defined the food security status of their households in any of the four categories—severe (chronic) food shortage, occasional (transitory) food shortage, breakeven, and food surplus. Given the ordered nature of the responses, a generalized threshold model has been estimated. We do not find any significant difference in the food security between the male and female headed households especially among the indigenous ethnic groups. This result contradicts the conventional idea about the vulnerability of the female headed households. However, we find that the female heads are “activity burdened” as they maintain household chores in addition to working outside. Absence of social and cultural restrictions among the indigenous groups permits greater freedom to their females to participate in the labor force. This coupled with lower dependency ratio in the female headed households is attributed to their less food insecurity. This result may be indicative in the sense that non-economic institutions can significantly impact upon economic outcomes such as improving the food security of a household especially the female headed one. This has important policy implications as well. Designing development assistance programs should take into consideration the social and cultural heterogeneity even within a region in a country.
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