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Autonomy or Efficiency. An experiment on household decisions in two regions of India

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  • Alistair Munro

    (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies)

  • Bereket Kebede
  • Marcela Tarazona-Gomez
  • Arjan Verschoor

Abstract

Dyson and Moore (1983) posit that women in South India enjoy relatively more agency than in the North. Their conclusions have become part of the standard picture of Indian rural society. In this paper, we examine using experimental data the implications of the regional contrast in female autonomy for the efficiency of family decision-making. We take a sample of 1200 couples from one rural and one urban area in the north of India (Uttar Pradesh) and one area in the south (Tamil Nadu) that are often taken to exemplify differences in the autonomy of women and the nature of marital relationships. Generally, we find large-scale and robust evidence of inefficiency and the hiding of assets when this is possible. Men invest more and are more generous to their partners. Women are more willing to invest in a common pool when their income is earned through working and when assets are publicly observable. Regarding the focus of our paper, we find continuing significant differences between North and South and we find relatively little evidence that urban living is associated with changes in the nature of marital behaviour. There are some differences between response to treatment but the key and striking difference between the North and the South is that in both rural and urban sites in the former region household efficiency is considerably greater than in the latter, which does on the face of it suggest a tradeoff between autonomy and efficiency.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in its series GRIPS Discussion Papers with number 10-33.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ngi:dpaper:10-33

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  1. Todd L. Cherry & Peter Frykblom & Jason F. Shogren, 2002. "Hardnose the Dictator," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 1218-1221, September.
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  7. Kebede, Bereket & Tarazona, Marcela & Munro, Alistair & Verschoor, Arjan, 2013. "Intra-household efficiency: An experimental study from Ethiopia," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  8. Alistair Munro & Bereket Kebede & Marcela Tarazona-Gomez & Arjan Verschoor, 2010. "The lion’s share. An experimental analysis of polygamy in Northern Nigeria," GRIPS Discussion Papers 10-27, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
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  14. Iversen, Vegard & Jackson, Cecile & Kebede, Bereket & Munro, Alistair & Verschoor, Arjan, 2011. "Do Spouses Realise Cooperative Gains? Experimental Evidence from Rural Uganda," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 569-578, April.
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  17. Vegard Iversen & Cecile Jackson & Bereket Kebede & Alistair Munro & Arjan Verschoor, 2006. "What's love got to do with it? An experimental test of household models in east uganda," Artefactual Field Experiments 00071, The Field Experiments Website.
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Cited by:
  1. Kebede, Bereket & Tarazona, Marcela & Munro, Alistair & Verschoor, Arjan, 2013. "Intra-household efficiency: An experimental study from Ethiopia," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  2. Holden, Stein & Bezu, Sosina, 2013. "Joint Land Certification and Intra-household Decision-making:Towards Empowerment of Wives?," CLTS Working Papers 14/13, Centre for Land Tenure Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
  3. Holden, Stein & Bezu, Sosina, 2014. "Are Wives less Selfish than their Husbands? Evidence from Hawk-Dove Game Field Experiments," CLTS Working Papers 3/14, Centre for Land Tenure Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

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