Implications of gender for perceptions of wellbeing and agency in low-income communities: the case of South Wollo, Ethiopia. Restricted; Files Only

Mulugeta, Makda (Spring 2021)

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The South Wollo region of Ethiopia is well known for its struggles with famine and food security, but less is understood about how these impact wellbeing and other social outcomes. Many studies have attested to the complex relationship between objective and subjective wellbeing, which is largely influenced by a sense of agency. In populations like those who reside in South Wollo, there are many cultural influences barring women from attaining the same objective wellbeing that males have, which can harm both food insecurity and subjective wellbeing. There is little research on how female and male household heads differ in terms of subjective and objective indicators of wellbeing and the role that agency plays. Socioeconomic and demographic data from a 2017-2018 study in the area was analyzed to assess whether agency, life satisfaction, and certain indicators of food insecurity vary based on the gender of the household head. I used an approach that entails economic and sociocultural factors impacting objective wellbeing, which alters perceptions of one’s control over their life that in turn affect life satisfaction. Hypothesizing that households with female heads or from a poorer neighborhood, Tebasit, would have the worst wellbeing and agency levels, I found that the lowest scorers of wellbeing and agency were Tebasit female-headed households. Poor neighborhood negatively affected subjective wellbeing. The relationship between agency and wellbeing followed a complicated pattern, as noted from the literature. This research offers a unique perspective on how subjective and objective wellbeing are related, what factors influence this relationship and offers the importance of gender in how people pursue ‘the good life.’

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Background and Literature Review...5

Economy, Poverty and Food Insecurity

Culture and Society

Objective Wellbeing, Agency, and Subjective Wellbeing

Chapter 2: Research Design and Methods...26

Chapter 3: Findings...28

Study Sample

Analysis of Food Insecurity Indicators

Indicators of Wellbeing and Agency

Associations Between Wellbeing and Agency

Effects of Gender and Kebele

Chapter 4: Discussion...45

Food Insecurity

Wellbeing and Agency


Chapter 5: Conclusions and Implications...59






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