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Insights from LSMS+: Women lag behind in asset ownership and are burdened with domestic work

Collecting nationally representative, individual-level survey data on key dimensions is important for designing comprehensive policies to improve economic opportunities for women and men. Survey data collected by the Living Standards Measurement Study – Plus (LSMS+) program in four countries -  Cambodia, Ethiopia, Malawi and Tanzania - reveals important gender differences in land ownership and rights, ownership of other assets, and time use.

Having accurate, individual-level data on these economic indicators allows for better targeting of a range of different economic policies. This includes land reforms, for example, as well as access to finance with gender equality in mind.

For more information about the LSMS+ program, click here.

Agricultural Land Ownership and Rights

Data from: Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia

The data from the LSMS+ supported national surveys in Malawi, Tanzania, and Ethiopia reveal that gender differences in reported land ownership are not very different across contexts - because of high levels of joint ownership, as well as matrilineal customs around land inheritance in Malawi. However, women’s rights and decision-making over land are often lower across countries.  These include: rights to sell, bequeath, rent out, use land as collateral, and improve upon the land; different modes of economic ownership where one controls how the proceeds are used if land is sold, and documented ownership; and plot decision-making for agricultural land.

We also found that gender gaps in each of the five core land rights tend to be much greater than gaps in economic ownership or decision-making regarding timing of production activities, crop choice and input use.

What about transfer rights over land?

A technical takeaway from the experts' survey work is that, transfer rights over land, such as the rights to sell, bequeath, rent out and use land as collateral, can be used to effectively categorize landowners into three robust clusters: no rights, mostly exclusive rights, and mostly joint rights. This method can streamline future survey questionnaire design and analysis.

About LSMS+

Since its creation, the LSMS+ surveys have provided high-quality individual-disaggregated data in household surveys to help governments target and design effective economic policies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Nationally representative surveys directly supported by LSMS+ include the 2016 Malawi Integrated Household Panel Survey, 2019-20 Tanzania National Panel Survey, 2018-19 Ethiopia Socioeconomic Survey, 2019-20 Cambodia LSMS+ Survey, the 2022 Sudan Labor Market Panel Survey, and the 2022 Nepal High Frequency Phone Survey.