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Women left behind ? poverty and headship in Africa

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  • Milazzo,Annamaria
  • Van De Walle,Dominique

Abstract

This paper is motivated by two stylized facts about poverty in Africa: female-headed households tend to be poorer, and poverty has been falling in the aggregate since the 1990s. These facts raise two questions: How have female-headed households fared? And what role have they played in Africa's impressive recent aggregate growth and poverty reduction? Using data covering the entire region, the paper reexamines the current prevalence and characteristics of female-headed households, and asks whether their prevalence has been rising over time, what factors have been associated with such changes since the mid-1990s, and whether poverty has fallen equi-proportionately for male- and female-headed households. Rising gross domestic product has dampened rising female headship. However, other subtle transformations occurring across Africa?changes in marriage behavior, family formation, health, and education?have put upward pressure on female headship, with the result that the share of female-headed households has been growing. This has been happening alongside declining aggregate poverty incidence. However, rather than being left behind, female-headed households have generally seen faster poverty reduction. As a whole, this group has contributed almost as much to the reduction in poverty as male-headed households, despite the smaller share of female-headed households in the population.

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  • Milazzo,Annamaria & Van De Walle,Dominique, 2015. "Women left behind ? poverty and headship in Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7331, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:7331
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    19. Kathleen Beegle & Luc Christiaensen & Andrew Dabalen & Isis Gaddis, 2016. "Poverty in a Rising Africa," World Bank Publications - Books, The World Bank Group, number 22575, December.
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    23. Wong, Ho Lun & Wei, Xiangdong & Kahsay, Haftom Bayray & Gebreegziabher, Zenebe & Gardebroek, Cornelis & Osgood, Daniel E. & Diro, Rahel, 2020. "Effects of input vouchers and rainfall insurance on agricultural production and household welfare: Experimental evidence from northern Ethiopia," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 135(C).
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    Housing&Human Habitats; Population Policies; Regional Economic Development; Rural Poverty Reduction;
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