Safer if connected? Mobile technology and intimate partner violence

Luca Maria Pesando, New York University (AD)

Mobile phones are an invaluable economic asset for low-income individuals and an important tool for strengthening social ties. Mobile phones may also help women overcome physical boundaries, especially in places where they are bound within their husbands’ social spheres. Using micro-level data on women and men from recent Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) including new information on mobile-phone ownership, this study examines whether individual ownership of phones is associated with the likelihood of women experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) across ten low- and middle-income countries. Findings show that women’s ownership of mobile phones is associated with a 9-12-percent decrease in the likelihood of experiencing IPV over the previous 12 months, even after controlling for a host of characteristics proxying for socioeconomic status, household resources, and local development within the community. Estimates are negative in seven out of the 10 countries and robust to the use of non-parametric matching techniques and instrumental variables built through geo-referenced sources. Exploring two mechanisms, mobile-phone ownership is positively associated with women’s decision-making power within the household and less acceptability of IPV on the part of male partners. Findings speak to scholars/policymakers interested in how technology diffusion relates to dynamics of women’s empowerment and global development.

Keywords: Gender, Demographic and social surveys, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), COVID-19

See paper.

  Presented in Session 73. Gender-Based Sexual Violence