Measuring women's empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa: Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analyses of the demographic and health surveys

Ibitola O. Asaolu, Halimatou Alaofè, Jayleen K.L. Gunn, Akosua K. Adu, Amanda J. Monroy, John E. Ehiri, Mary H. Hayden, Kacey C. Ernst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Background: Women's status and empowerment influence health, nutrition, and socioeconomic status of women and their children. Despite its benefits, however, research on women's empowerment in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is limited in scope and geography. Empowerment is variably defined and data for comparison across regions is often limited. The objective of the current study was to identify domains of empowerment from a widely available data source, Demographic and Health Surveys, across multiple regions in SSA. Methods: Demographic and Health Surveys from nineteen countries representing four African regions were used for the analysis. A total of 26 indicators across different dimensions (economic, socio-cultural, education, and health) were used to characterize women's empowerment. Pooled data from all countries were randomly divided into two datasets-one for exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and the other for Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA)-to verify the factor structure hypothesized during EFA. Results: Four factors including attitudes toward violence, labor force participation, education, and access to healthcare were found to define women's empowerment in Central, Southern, and West Africa. However, in East Africa, only three factors were relevant: attitudes toward violence, access to healthcare ranking, and labor force participation. There was limited evidence to support household decision-making, life course, or legal status domains as components of women's empowerment. Conclusion: This foremost study advances scholarship on women's empowerment by providing a validated measure of women's empowerment for researchers and other stakeholders in health and development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number994
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUN
StatePublished - Jun 19 2018


  • Confirmatory factor analysis
  • Exploratory factor analysis
  • Gender equality
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Women's empowerment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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