Women's social power, child nutrition, and poverty in Mali
While the macro-level association between poverty and child malnutrition is well established, the concept of “poverty” and its operationalization in terms of measures of socioeconomic status shed little or no light on the mechanisms through which malnutrition is created and/or prevented. This paper investigates several such mechanisms that may mediate the impact of poverty on childhood nutrition. Of particular interest is the influence of women's access to instrumental resources, including time and money, and their social power to mobilize these resources be they their own, their household's, or located in networks extending beyond the household. These micro-level factors are examined using survey data on 402 children five years and younger and their 261 Fulbe mothers in rural Mali. A conceptual model of social power is developed and used to test the hypothesis that the offspring of mothers with high social power will be nutritionally better-off than the children of mothers with low social power. When controlling for known biological, individual, and extra individual determinants of child malnutrition, analysis reveals an independent effect of women's social power captured by measures of passivity/helplessness and felt control.