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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, Japan)

  • Bereket Kebede

    (School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia)

  • Marcela Tarazona-Gomez

    (School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia)

  • Arjan Verschoor

    (School of Development Studies, University of East Anglia)

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 this regional contrast in female autonomy for the efficiency of family decision-making. We take a sample of 1200 couples from two areas 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 School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. in its series Working Paper series, University of East Anglia, Centre for Behavioural and Experimental Social Science (CBESS) with number 11-02.

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Handle: RePEc:uea:wcbess:11-02

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Related research

Keywords: Economic experiments; married couples; female autonomy; efficiency; intra-household allocation; North and South India; Dyson and Moore;

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References

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  1. André de Palma & Nathalie Picard & Anthony Ziegelmeyer, 2007. "Individual and Couple Decision Behavior under Risk:The Power of Ultimate Control," THEMA Working Papers 2007-03, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
  2. Munro, Alistair & Bateman, Ian J. & McNally, Tara, 2008. "The family under the microscope: an experiment testing economic models of household choice," MPRA Paper 8974, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  3. Bereket Kebede & Marcela Tarazona & Alistair Munro & Arjan Verschoor, 2011. "Intra-household efficiency; An experimental study from Ethiopia," CSAE Working Paper Series 2011-01, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  4. Robinson, Jonathan, 2008. "Limited Insurance Within the Household: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Kenya," MPRA Paper 8314, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Browning, M. & Chiappori, P.A., 1994. "Efficient Intra-Household allocations: A General Characterization and Empirical Tests," DELTA Working Papers 94-16, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  6. 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.
  7. Carlsson, Fredrik & Martinsson, Peter & Qin, Ping & Sutter, Matthias, 2009. "Household Decision Making and the Influence of Spouses' Income, Education, and Communist Party Membership: A Field Experiment in Rural China," IZA Discussion Papers 4139, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Lundberg, Shelly & Pollak, Robert A, 1993. "Separate Spheres Bargaining and the Marriage Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(6), pages 988-1010, December.
  9. Lupin Rahman & Vijayendra Rao, 2004. "The Determinants of Gender Equity in India: Examining Dyson and Moore's Thesis with New Data," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 30(2), pages 239-268.
  10. Alistair Munro & Ian Bateman, 2004. "An Experiment On Risky Choice Amongst Households," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2004 77, Royal Economic Society.
  11. 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.
  12. Manser, Marilyn & Brown, Murray, 1980. "Marriage and Household Decision-Making: A Bargaining Analysis," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 21(1), pages 31-44, February.
  13. Anderson, Siwan & Eswaran, Mukesh, 2009. "What determines female autonomy? Evidence from Bangladesh," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(2), pages 179-191, November.
  14. Gary S. Becker, 1981. "A Treatise on the Family," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number beck81-1, May.
  15. Cochard François, Couprie Helene, Hopfensitz Astrid, 2009. "Do Spouses Cooperate? And If Not: Why?," THEMA Working Papers 2009-10, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
  16. Agnihotri, Satish & Palmer-Jones, Richard & Parikh, Ashok, 2002. "Missing women in Indian districts: a quantitative analysis," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 285-314, September.
  17. Udry, Christopher, 1996. "Gender, Agricultural Production, and the Theory of the Household," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 1010-46, October.
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Cited by:
  1. 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.
  2. Bereket Kebede, 2011. "Intra-household efficiency: An experimental study from Ethiopia," Economics Series Working Papers CSAE WPS/2011-01, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.

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