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Cornell University

Tata-Cornell Institute for Agriculture and Nutrition

Nutritional Outcomes of Empowerment and Market Integration for Women in Rural India


Over half of all women of reproductive age are affected by anaemia in India. In this paper we study the role that both household market integration and women’s empowerment in agriculture can play in determining women’s dietary diversity. Our analysis is based on primary data from 3600 households across India on agriculture, nutrition and anthropometric outcomes. We account for market integration by way of per capita household purchases (quantity) of cereals and non- cereal food groups, such as pulses, meat/ fish/ poultry, fruits and vegetables, eggs and dairy. We construct an adapted version of the Abbreviated Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (A-WEAI) that is context- specific and agriculture- oriented. After controlling for individual, household and village- level explanatory factors, we find that – for a given level of per capita market purchases – women who are empowered in their agricultural decisions have significantly higher dietary diversity scores relative to women who are disempowered of such decisions. More specifically it is women’s empowerment in two areas: input in production decisions and membership in self- help groups that supports this result. Women’s empowerment also enhances dietary diversity in the presence of disaggregated per capita purchases of non-cereals such as pulses, meat, dairy and eggs. This highlights the importance of reorienting India’s agricultural price and procurement policies beyond staple grains to ensure better dietary diversity.

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