Women’s Inheritance Rights and Child Health Outcomes in Kenya

Joseph Ajefu*, Uchenna Efobi, Nadia Singh, Shayequa Zeenat Ali

*Corresponding author for this work

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In recent years, many developing countries implemented inheritance rights reforms, aimed at abolishing any forms of gender discrimination in the arena of property rights. A few studies examine the interrelationship between inheritance rights reform and qualitative indicators of women’s well-being in terms of bargaining power at the household level, exposure to domestic violence, health outcomes and participation in labour markets. However, quantitative evidence on the second-generation effects of these inheritance reforms, in terms of influencing health and well-being outcomes of the children born to beneficiary women is scant, particularly in the context of sub-Saharan Africa. This paper examines the effects of a statutory law reform that grants Kenyan women equal inheritance rights on children’s health outcomes using a difference-in-differences framework. Using the Kenyan Demographic and Health Surveys, this study exploits variation in the timing of the 1981 reform and the 1990 amendments as well as differences in religious affiliation to estimate the effect of the reform on child health outcomes. This study finds that exposure to the inheritance rights reform is associated with a decline in poor health outcomes in children. We identify potential channels through which changes in inheritance rights law can affect children’s outcome to include women’s human capital, marital matching, intra-household bargaining, and women’s labour supply.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-150
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Family and Economic Issues
Issue number1
Early online date1 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

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