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Who wears the trousers? A semiparametric analysis of decision power in couples

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  • Melanie Lührmann
  • Jürgen Maurer

    (Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA))

Abstract

Decision processes among couples depend on the balance of power between the partners, determining the welfare of household members as well as household outcomes. However, little is known about the determinants of power. The collective model of household behavior gives an operational definition of decision power. We argue that important aspects of this concept of power are measurable through self-assessments of partners’ say. Using such a measure, we model balance of power as an outcome of the interplay between both partners’ demographic, socioeconomic, and health characteristics. Advancing flexible, yet parsimonious empirical models is crucial for the analysis, as both absolute status as well as relative position in the couple might potentially affect the balance of power, and gender-asymmetries may be important. Appropriately, we advance semiparametric double index models that feature one separate index for each spouse, which interact nonparametrically in the determination of power. Based on data from the Mexican Health and Aging Study (MHAS), we find education and employment status to be associated with more individual decision power, especially for women. Moreover, health and income have independent effects on the distribution of power. We also show that contextual factors are important determinants of decision power, with women in urban couples featuring more decision power than their rural counterparts.

Suggested Citation

  • Melanie Lührmann & Jürgen Maurer, 2008. "Who wears the trousers? A semiparametric analysis of decision power in couples," MEA discussion paper series 08168, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:mea:meawpa:08168
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    Cited by:

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    2. Sevias Guvuriro & Frederik Booysen, 2021. "Family‐type public goods and intra‐household decision‐making by co‐resident South African couples," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 25(3), pages 1629-1647, August.
    3. Bertocchi, Graziella & Brunetti, Marianna & Torricelli, Costanza, 2012. "Is it money or brains? The determinants of intra-family decision power," CEPR Discussion Papers 9017, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Aline Bütikofer & Michael Gerfin, 2017. "The economies of scale of living together and how they are shared: estimates based on a collective household model," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 15(2), pages 433-453, June.
    5. Bertocchi, Graziella & Brunetti, Marianna & Torricelli, Costanza, 2014. "Who holds the purse strings within the household? The determinants of intra-family decision making," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 65-86.
    6. Nottmeyer, Olga, 2011. "Couple's Relative Labor Supply in Intermarriage," IZA Discussion Papers 5567, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    7. Thomas Baudin & David de la Croix & Paula E. Gobbi, 2015. "Fertility and Childlessness in the United States," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(6), pages 1852-1882, June.
    8. Olga Nottmeyer, 2014. "Relative labor supply in intermarriage," IZA Journal of Migration and Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-27, December.
    9. Rama Lionel Ngenzebuke & Bram De Rock & Philip Verwimp, 2018. "The power of the family: kinship and intra-household decision making in rural Burundi," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 323-346, June.
    10. Sariyev, O., 2018. "A new index for gendered decision-making, considering all family members, its determinants, and effects on food security," 2018 Conference, July 28-August 2, 2018, Vancouver, British Columbia 277479, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    11. AINA, Carmen & MAZZOTTA, Fernanda & PARISI, Lavinia, 2014. "Bargaining or efficiency within the household? The case of Italy," CELPE Discussion Papers 130, CELPE - Centre of Labour Economics and Economic Policy, University of Salerno, Italy.
    12. Marie-Hélène BROIHANNE, 2021. "Testing the gender gap in subjective financial literacy of spouses," Working Papers of LaRGE Research Center 2021-08, Laboratoire de Recherche en Gestion et Economie (LaRGE), Université de Strasbourg.

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    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • J14 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of the Elderly; Economics of the Handicapped; Non-Labor Market Discrimination
    • C14 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Semiparametric and Nonparametric Methods: General

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