Document Type : Research Paper


1 Demography, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran

2 Associate Professor, Department of Demography, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tehran




Over the last decade, various and heterogeneous types of households have emerged in Iran as a result of economic, social and demographic changes. One of the most significant demographic changes in the country is the increase in the frequency of female-headed households. When comparing the establishment of female-headed households in developed and developing countries, it is clear that social, economic and demographic factors have different effects on these types of households. Critiquing the existing research that focus on central averages and disregard micro-level changes, it is possible to establish a clear foundation for policies affecting female-headed households.


Focusing on female-headed households as a distinct group, this study examines their similarities and differences in social, economic and demographic aspects at the county level and studies their distribution within the theoretical frameworks of second demographic transition and inequalities in relation to drive and pressures mechanisms.

Theoretical Framework

Based on the current theoretical and experimental literature, this study classifies the existing components in terms of their role in formation of female-headed households as "driver" and "pressure". Voluntary drivers of feminization of household headship were analyzed using the second demographic transition theory and the forced pressures of feminization of household headship were investigated in the context of inequality theory.

Data and Method

This paper examines the role of driver and pressure mechanisms on distribution of female-headed households in 429 Iranian counties in 2016 using data from the Statistics Center of Iran and spatial autocorrelation (Moran’s I and Getis index), K-mean clustering and ordinary least squares regression methods.


The results of spatial autocorrelation revealed that southeast counties have the highest concentration of female-headed households, while the lowest concentration is observed in northwest counties extending in a line to the center. According to the spatial clustering model and the hierarchical exploratory analysis method on the variables of percentage of female-headed households, economic, demographic, and social status, the counties are divided into five clusters with the smallest difference from the central average in each cluster and the greatest difference with other clusters in the best case; One of which (cluster 1) includes only three counties and is considered an outlier. Other clusters include (1) cluster 2 containing the north-west, south and north-east counties and affected by economic drivers; (2) cluster 3 containing central and northern counties and affected by social and demographic drivers; (3) cluster 4 containing western and southwestern counties and affected by demographic and economic pressures; and (4) cluster 5 containing southeastern and eastern counties and affected by social and economic pressures. Furthermore, the results of ordinary least squares regression revealed that the covariates explain 75% of fluctuations in the frequency of female-headed households. The three economic components of percentage of jobless families, employment rate of urban women and economic participation rate had a positive and significant impact (at an error level less than 0.001) on the development of female-headed households. The socio-demographic components of percentage of widowed women, early marriage, percentage of divorced women and literacy rate of women had a positive and significant effect and the two components of the percentage of ever-married population and the percentage of urban population had a negative and significant effect (at an error level of 0.001) on the formation of female-headed households in counties of Iran.


A variety of drivers and pressure such as social, economic and demographic factors can influence the formation of heterogeneous households; thus, investigating the factors influencing the formation of female-headed households and their various characteristics at the county level can provide a general picture of the situation of these women and, consequently, the households headed by them and helps evidence-based policy making. Spatial techniques offer numerous possibilities in presenting micro-level spatial patterns and genuine spatial fluctuations that better illustrate the true link between variables since they employ local values rather than relying on central averages.


Social, economic, and demographic changes have a relatively strong impact on formation of female-headed households via two driving and pressuring mechanisms. As a result, empowering women in the context of second demographic transition can increase these households in districts (central and north counties) influenced by the driving mechanism. Continued social, economic and demographic pressures can increased these household in districted (southeast counties) affected by the pressuring mechanism. Thus, policy making based on the role of these mechanisms can help to empower and support these households.


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