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Women’s empowerment and infant mortality in Latin America: evidence from 286 cities

Author(s): Ana Ortigoza, Ariela Braverman, Philipp Hessel, Vanessa Di Cecco, Amélia Augusta Friche, Waleska Teixeira Caiaffa, and Ana V. Diez Roux

Levels of women’s empowerment (WE) can contribute to differences in infant mortality rates (IMRs) across cities. We used a cross-sectional multilevel study to examine associations of WE with IMRs across 286 cities in seven Latin American countries. We estimated IMRs for 2014–2016 period and combined city socioeconomic indicators into factors reflecting living conditions and service provision. WE was operationalized: (1) in cities, by using scores for women’s labor force participation (WLFP) and educational attainment among women derived from education and employment indicators disaggregated by sex; (2) in countries, by including a scale of enforcements of laws related to women’s rights. We estimated adjusted percent differences in IMRs associated with higher WE scores across all cities and stratified by country GDP. We found substantial heterogeneity in IMRs and WE across cities. Higher WLFP was associated with lower IMRs. Higher women’s educational attainment was associated with lower IMRs only in cities from countries with lower GDP. Poorer national enforcement of laws protecting women’s rights was associated with higher IMRs in all countries. Women’s empowerment could have positive implications for population health. Fostering women’s socioeconomic development and girls’ education should be part of strategies to reduce IMRs in cities of Global South.

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Women’s empowerment and infant mortality in Latin America