Publications Summary

Document Type
Working Papers
Publication Topic(s)
Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Nepal, Philippines, Haiti
Recommended Citation
MacQuarrie, Kerry L. D. 2021. Measuring Youth Empowerment. DHS Working Papers No. 179. Rockville, Maryland, USA: ICF.
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Publication Date
September 2021
Publication ID


Despite advances in the measurement of women’s empowerment, its demonstrated relevance for a range of demographic, social, and health outcomes, and salience of empowerment in young women’s lives, the study of the empowerment among youth has been stymied by the lack of validated quantitative measures and widely available data. The present study aims to fill this gap by exploring the feasibility of developing a measure of youth empowerment using data from Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS). This study uses data from 10 phase 7 DHS surveys in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean to develop and validate a Youth Empowerment (YE) Scale. We used principal components analysis on an initial pool of 41 candidate items. We performed first exploratory (EFA) and then confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) on a pooled sample of 104,248 women age 15-29. To test the robustness and applicability of the resulting YE Scale across a range of youth subpopulations, we performed CFA on 10 separate survey subsamples and pooled and separate country subsamples disaggregated by age group, marital status, and school-going status. We examined the factor structure and item loading patterns across these subsamples and estimated pairwise correlations among factor scores. A 22-item, six-factor YE Scale emerged with an eigenvalue of 1.07 that explained 62% of the variance among items. An overall Cronbach’s alpha of a=0.7260 indicates strong internal reliability. We labeled the six factors as: 1. Violence attitudes, 2, Digital connectedness: Banking and internet, 3. Work and earnings, 4. Health facility access, 5. Major asset ownership, and 6. Reproductive health knowledge. Except for reproductive health knowledge, each subscale also demonstrated good internal reliability (a=0.7095-0.8821). CFAs revealed a consistent factor structure and item loading pattern across separate country samples and age, marital status, and school status disaggregated subsamples. Internal reliability was consistently high for the overall YE scale and the first five subscales. Cronbach’s alpha for the reproductive health knowledge factor ranged from a=0.0320–0.5324, showing mostly poor internal reliability. Pairwise correlations among factor scores were consistently significant but not sizable, suggesting that the six factors capture related but separate constructs. This study finds that it is possible to measure youth empowerment with existing available data in the DHS. The YE Scale is robust across multiple countries and valid for young women, regardless of whether they are married or unmarried, in school or out of school, or age 15-19, 20-24, or 25-29. With its wide applicability, this YE Scale can facilitate new analyses into relationships between youth empowerment and life outcomes for young women.


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