Published October 2, 2018
Congratulations to Assistant Professor Nadine Shaanta Murshid on the publication of her article, "Microfinance Participation and Women's Decision-Making Power in the Household in Bangladesh" in the Journal of Social Service Research.
Murshid, N.S. (2018). Microfinance Participation and Women's Decision-Making Power in the Household in Bangladesh. Journal of Social Service Research.
This study draws from bargaining theory to examine whether microfinance, a range of financial instruments such as micro-loans to support micro-enterprises, affects women's participation in household decision-making operationalized by whether women play a role in household decisions about large purchases, small purchases, going out to meet friends and family, and health care among a nationally representative sample of 6,150 women between the ages of 15 and 49 years in Bangladesh. Bargaining theory suggests that decision-making in households is conflictual but conflict can be mitigated through bargaining. Central to bargaining power of women is control over resources, assuming that household decision-making involves making economic decisions. Logistic regression analysis was used to test the interaction effect of microfinance and control over resources on decision-making power in the household utilizing the nationally representative Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2011. Results revealed that microfinance participants with control over resources reported higher odds of decision-making power (OR = 4.3, p < 0.05) when compared to microfinance participants without control over resources (OR = 1.22, p < 0.05) but less than women who did not participate in microfinance but had control over resources (OR = 5.2; p < 0.05). In conclusion, control over resources play an important role in bargaining that increases odds of having decision-making power in the household, even for women who do not participate in microfinance. The study findings contribute to both social work practice and research on low-income populations as it allows an understanding of the importance financial access and financial know-how while it sheds light on how precarious women's lives can be as they navigate income-generating financial systems that interfere with gender norms, which may have negative consequences. These findings are particularly important for practitioners working in the area of women's empowerment who would do well to emphasize the need for building financial capability so that women are able to garner control over their own and familial resources, whether or not they participate in empowerment programs like microfinance, which in turn gives women voice and agency. Meanwhile, future researchers are well positioned to examine the kinds of specific skills that best predict increases in women's decision-making power in the household as well how gender dynamics play into the decision-making process.