Political Science ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-15-2022


One of the ways that women have been disadvantaged throughout much of the world is through unequal access to property. This includes both land and housing, the ownership of which has been linked to crucial human development outcomes. As a result, scholars have theorized the importance of women’s land ownership, yet empirical studies have been limited, leaving many relevant questions unanswered. Does property ownership improve women’s lives? If so, in what ways? When women own land, are they better able to make choices about their own health care? Does property ownership increase their ability to exit an abusive partnership? When they own a home jointly with their husband, do their husbands exert a lower level of marital control? This dissertation builds on previous work, leveraging individual-level survey data in an analysis of the relationship between women’s ownership of housing and land and three indicators of empowerment: participation in household decision-making; experiences of intimate partner violence; and level of marital control exerted by her husband. These indicators are explored across three different cases in Latin America: Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras, using data collected via USAID’s Demographic and Health Surveys. I find that the relationship between property ownership and empowerment outcomes varies based on the type of property owned, as well as how it is held. Further, I find that these relationships work differently for more marginalized women. Taken together, this dissertation provides a better understanding of what relationship—if any— property holdings have on women’s daily lives.

Degree Name

Political Science

Level of Degree


Department Name

Political Science

First Committee Member (Chair)

Mala Htun and Bill Stanley

Second Committee Member

Jo-Marie Burt

Third Committee Member

Tamara Kay

Fourth Committee Member

Jami Nelson-Nunez

Project Sponsors

Latin American and Iberian Institute



Document Type