Spousal Accord and the Costs of Household Decision-making in Tanzania and Mali
This paper examines husband and wife perspectives on the division of authority over agriculture-related decision-making within households in Tanzania and Mali. We develop a theoretical model of intrahousehold “accord,” defined as the level of agreement between husbands and wives over who holds authority for different decisions. We then empirically analyze husband and wife claims to authority over thirteen household farming decisions, explaining accord as a function of household characteristics and decision characteristics. We posit that lower transaction costs (in terms of negotiation and enforcement costs) make property rights over some decisions relatively more secure, resulting in greater accord over household authority for those decisions. We test our theoretical model using survey data from a stratified random sample of 3,763 households in Mali (n = 1,766) and Tanzania (n = 1,997). Cluster analysis and binary logistic regression suggest that variation in intra-household accord can be explained by both household characteristics (including individual spousal attitudes, relative spousal assets, and overall household resources) and by decision characteristics (such as whether the benefits of a given decision accrue to the individual spouse or to the household as a whole). Furthermore patterns of intra-household accord and predictors of intra-household accord both vary significantly by country (Mali versus Tanzania), but are consistent with the interpretation that cultural norms might lower decision-related transaction costs leading to efficient, if not necessarily equitable, household decision-making processes.
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