IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

Revisiting the patriarchal bargain: The intergenerational power dynamics of household money management in rural Nepal


  • Gram, Lu
  • Skordis-Worrall, Jolene
  • Mannell, Jenevieve
  • Manandhar, Dharma S.
  • Saville, Naomi
  • Morrison, Joanna


Although power struggles between daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law in the South Asian household remain an enduring theme of feminist scholarship, current policy discourse on ‘women’s economic empowerment’ in the Global South tends to focus on married women’s power over their husband; this neglects intergenerational power dynamics. The aim of this study was to describe and analyze the processes involved in young, married women’s negotiations of control over cash inside the extended household in a contemporary rural Nepali setting. We conducted a grounded theory study of 42 households from the Plains of Nepal. Our study uncovered multiple ways in which junior wives and husbands in the extended household became secret allies in seeking financial autonomy from the rule of the mother-in-law to the wife. This included secretly saving up for a household separation from the in-laws. We argue these secret financial strategies constitute a means for junior couples to renegotiate the terms of Kandiyoti’s (1988) ‘patriarchal bargain’ wherein junior wives traditionally had to accept subservience to their husband and mother-in-law in exchange for economic security and eventual authority over their own daughters-in-law. Researchers, activists and policy-makers concerned with women’s economic empowerment in comparable contexts should consider the impact of intergenerational power relations on women’s control over cash.

Suggested Citation

  • Gram, Lu & Skordis-Worrall, Jolene & Mannell, Jenevieve & Manandhar, Dharma S. & Saville, Naomi & Morrison, Joanna, 2018. "Revisiting the patriarchal bargain: The intergenerational power dynamics of household money management in rural Nepal," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 193-204.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:112:y:2018:i:c:p:193-204
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2018.08.002

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    File URL:
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Naved, Ruchira Tabassum, 2000. "Intrahousehold impact of the transfer of modern agricultural technology," FCND discussion papers 85, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    2. Richards, Esther & Theobald, Sally & George, Asha & Kim, Julia C. & Rudert, Christiane & Jehan, Kate & Tolhurst, Rachel, 2013. "Going beyond the surface: Gendered intra-household bargaining as a social determinant of child health and nutrition in low and middle income countries," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 24-33.
    3. Penny Vera-Sanso, 2012. "Gender, Poverty and Old-Age Livelihoods in Urban South India in an Era of Globalisation," Oxford Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(3), pages 324-340, September.
    4. Farah Said & Mahreen Mahmud & Giovanna d’Adda & Azam Chaudhry, 2017. "Hiding Money: Evidence from a field experiment with aspiring female entrepreneurs," CSAE Working Paper Series 2017-07, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    5. Doss, Cheryl, 2013. "Intrahousehold bargaining and resource allocation in developing countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6337, The World Bank.
    6. Naved, Ruchira Tabassum, 2000. "Intrahousehold impact of the transfer of modern agricultural technology," FCND briefs 85, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    7. Naila Kabeer, 1997. "Women, Wages and Intra‐household Power Relations in Urban Bangladesh," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 28(2), pages 261-302, April.
    8. Keera Allendorf, 2013. "Going Nuclear? Family Structure and Young Women’s Health in India, 1992–2006," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 50(3), pages 853-880, June.
    9. Cheryl Doss, 2013. "Intrahousehold Bargaining and Resource Allocation in Developing Countries-super-1," The World Bank Research Observer, World Bank, vol. 28(1), pages 52-78, February.
    10. Vegard Iversen, 2003. "Intra-Household Inequality: A Challenge For The Capability Approach?," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2-3), pages 93-115.
    11. Sisir Debnath, 2015. "The Impact of Household Structure on Female Autonomy in Developing Countries," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 51(5), pages 485-502, May.
    12. Deon Filmer & Lant Pritchett, 2001. "Estimating Wealth Effects Without Expenditure Data—Or Tears: An Application To Educational Enrollments In States Of India," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 38(1), pages 115-132, February.
    13. Carmen Diana Deere & Cheryl Doss, 2006. "The Gender Asset Gap: What Do We Know And Why Does It Matter?," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(1-2), pages 1-50.
    14. Sulagna Mookerjee, 2019. "Gender-Neutral Inheritance Laws, Family Structure, and Women’s Status in India," The World Bank Economic Review, World Bank, vol. 33(2), pages 498-515.
    15. Buvinic, Mayra & Furst-Nichols, Rebecca, 2014. "Promoting women's economic empowerment : what works ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 7087, The World Bank.
    16. Kabeer, Naila, 2001. "Conflicts Over Credit: Re-Evaluating the Empowerment Potential of Loans to Women in Rural Bangladesh," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 63-84, January.
    17. David Fielding & Aurélia Lepine, 2017. "Women’s Empowerment and Wellbeing: Evidence from Africa," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(6), pages 826-840, June.
    18. Naila Kabeer, 1999. "Resources, Agency, Achievements: Reflections on the Measurement of Women's Empowerment," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 30(3), pages 435-464, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. S Anukriti & Catalina Herrera‐Almanza & Praveen K. Pathak & Mahesh Karra, 2020. "Curse of the Mummy‐ji: The Influence of Mothers‐in‐Law on Women in India†," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 102(5), pages 1328-1351, October.
    2. Asadullah, M. Niaz & Mansoor, Nazia & Randazzo, Teresa & Wahhaj, Zaki, 2021. "Is son preference disappearing from Bangladesh?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 140(C).
    3. Deschênes, Sarah & Dumas, Christelle & Lambert, Sylvie, 2020. "Household resources and individual strategies," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 135(C).
    4. Ambler, Kate & Doss, Cheryl & Kieran, Caitlin & Passarelli, Simone, 2022. "Spousal concordance in joint and separate households: Survey evidence from Nepal," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 151(C).
    5. Lnu,Anukriti & Herrera-Almanza,Catalina & Karra,Mahesh Venkat, 2022. "Bring a Friend : Strengthening Women’s Social Networks and Reproductive Autonomy in India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 10107, The World Bank.
    6. Balayar, Ramesh & Mazur, Robert, 2021. "Women’s decision-making roles in vegetable production, marketing and income utilization in Nepal’s hills communities," World Development Perspectives, Elsevier, vol. 21(C).
    7. Harris-Fry, Helen & Saville, Naomi M. & Paudel, Puskar & Manandhar, Dharma S. & Cortina-Borja, Mario & Skordis, Jolene, 2022. "Relative power: Explaining the effects of food and cash transfers on allocative behaviour in rural Nepalese households," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 154(C).
    8. S Anukriti & Catalina Herrera-Almanza & Mahesh Karra & Praveen Kumar Pathak, 2020. "Curse of the Mummy-ji: The Influence of Mothers-in-Law on Women in India," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-337, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    9. Kiran Raj Awasthi & Jonine Jancey & Archie C. A. Clements & Rohit Kumar Sah & Madan Prasad Koirala & Binaya Chalise & Justine E. Leavy, 2022. "Traditional Beliefs, Practices, and Migration: A Risk to Malaria Transmission in Rural Nepal," IJERPH, MDPI, vol. 19(24), pages 1-11, December.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Lu Gram & Joanna Morrison & Jolene Skordis-Worrall, 2019. "Organising Concepts of ‘Women’s Empowerment’ for Measurement: A Typology," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 143(3), pages 1349-1376, June.
    2. Karimli, Leyla & Lecoutere, Els & Wells, Christine R. & Ismayilova, Leyla, 2021. "More assets, more decision-making power? Mediation model in a cluster-randomized controlled trial evaluating the effect of the graduation program on women's empowerment in Burkina Faso," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 137(C).
    3. Rao, Nitya, 2017. "Assets, Agency and Legitimacy: Towards a Relational Understanding of Gender Equality Policy and Practice," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 43-54.
    4. Alexandra Peralta, 2022. "The role of men and women in agriculture and agricultural decisions in Vanuatu," Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 9(1), pages 59-80, January.
    5. Sara Ratna Qanti & Alexandra Peralta & Di Zeng, 2022. "Social norms and perceptions drive women’s participation in agricultural decisions in West Java, Indonesia," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 39(2), pages 645-662, June.
    6. Fernandez, Antonia & Kambhampati, Uma S., 2017. "Shared agency: The dominant spouse’s impact on education expenditure," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 182-197.
    7. Promila Das, 2023. "Examination of Elements Influencing Mothers’ Dynamic Capacity and Versatility: A Household-level Analysis," Indian Journal of Human Development, , vol. 17(1), pages 179-190, April.
    8. Katrina Kosec & Kamiljon Akramov & Bakhrom Mirkasimov & Jie Song & Hongdi Zhao, 2022. "Aspirations and women's empowerment: Evidence from Kyrgyzstan," Economics of Transition and Institutional Change, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 30(1), pages 101-134, January.
    9. Sayed Samer Ali Al-shami & R. M. Razali & Nurulizwa Rashid, 2018. "The Effect of Microcredit on Women Empowerment in Welfare and Decisions Making in Malaysia," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 137(3), pages 1073-1090, June.
    10. Han, Wenjing & Zhang, Xiaoling & Zhang, Zhengfeng, 2019. "The role of land tenure security in promoting rural women’s empowerment: Empirical evidence from rural China," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 280-289.
    11. Liyousew Gebremedhin Borga, 2023. "Family policy, intrahousehold bargaining, and child health," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(2), pages 663-684, May.
    12. Rajalaxmi Kamath & Abhi Dattasharma, 2017. "Women and Household Cash Management: Evidence from Financial Diaries in India," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 29(1), pages 73-92, January.
    13. Anderson, C. Leigh & Reynolds, Travis W. & Gugerty, Mary Kay, 2017. "Husband and Wife Perspectives on Farm Household Decision-making Authority and Evidence on Intra-household Accord in Rural Tanzania," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 169-183.
    14. Lambrecht, Isabel Brigitte, 2016. "“As a Husband I Will Love, Lead, and Provide.” Gendered Access to Land in Ghana," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 188-200.
    15. Isabel Brigitte Lambrecht & Kristi Mahrt & Nang Lun Kham Synt & Hnin Ei Win & Khin Zin Win, 2023. "Gender gaps in land rights: Explaining different measures and why households differ in Myanmar," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 54(5), pages 728-741, September.
    16. Seymour, Greg & Peterman, Amber, 2018. "Context and measurement: An analysis of the relationship between intrahousehold decision making and autonomy," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 97-112.
    17. Meemken, Eva-Marie & Qaim, Matin, 2017. "Can Private Food Standards Promote Gender Equality in the Small Farm Sector?," 2017 Annual Meeting, July 30-August 1, Chicago, Illinois 258088, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    18. Astrid Sneyers & Anneleen Vandeplas, 2013. "Girl Power in Agricultural Production: How Much Does it Yield? A Case-Study on the Dairy Sector in India," LICOS Discussion Papers 34113, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
    19. Annan, Jeannie & Donald, Aletheia & Goldstein, Markus & Gonzalez Martinez, Paula & Koolwal, Gayatri, 2021. "Taking power: Women’s empowerment and household Well-being in Sub-Saharan Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 140(C).
    20. Roy Chowdhury, Soumi & Bohara, Alok K. & Horn, Brady P., 2018. "Balance of Power, Domestic Violence, and Health Injuries: Evidence from Demographic and Health Survey of Nepal," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 18-29.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:112:y:2018:i:c:p:193-204. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Catherine Liu (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.