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Family Ties, Inheritance Rights, and Successful Poverty Alleviation: Evidence from Ghana

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  • Edward Kutsoati
  • Randall Morck

Abstract

Ghanaian custom views children as members of either their mother's or father's lineage (extended family), but not both. Patrilineal custom charges a man's lineage with caring for his widow and children, while matrilineal custom places this burden on the widows' lineage - her father, brothers, and uncles. Deeming custom inadequate, and to promote the nuclear family, Ghana enacted the Intestate Succession (PNDC) Law 111, 1985 and 1998 Children's Act 560 to force men to provide for their widows and children, as in Western cultures. Our survey shows that, although most people die intestate and many profess to know Law 111, it is rarely implemented. Knowledge of the law correlates with couples accumulating assets jointly and with inter-vivos husband to wife transfers, controlling for education. These effects are least evident for widows of matrilineal lineage men, suggesting a persistence of traditional norms. Widows with closer ties with their own or their spouse's lineage report greater financial support, as do those very few who benefit from legal wills or access Law 111 and, importantly, widows of matrilineal lineage. Some evidence also supports Act 560 benefiting nuclear families, especially if the decedent's lineage is matrilineal. Overall, our study confirms African traditional institutions' persistent importance, and the limited effects of formal law.

Suggested Citation

  • Edward Kutsoati & Randall Morck, 2012. "Family Ties, Inheritance Rights, and Successful Poverty Alleviation: Evidence from Ghana," NBER Working Papers 18080, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18080
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    Cited by:

    1. Tarun Jain, 2014. "Where There Is a Will: Fertility Behavior and Sex Bias in Large Families," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 49(2), pages 393-423.
    2. Henderson, Morgan & Whatley, Warren, 2014. "Pacification and Gender in Colonial Africa: Evidence from the Ethnographic Atlas," MPRA Paper 61203, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Lambrecht, Isabel & Asare, Sarah, 2015. "Smallholders and land tenure in Ghana: Aligning context, empirics, and policy:," IFPRI discussion papers 1492, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    4. Michalopoulos, Stelios & Papaioannou, Elias, 2014. "On the Ethnic Origins of African Development: Chiefs and Pre-colonial Political Centralization," CEPR Discussion Papers 10257, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. 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.
    6. Asiedu, Edward & Ibanez, Marcela, 2014. "The weaker sex? Gender differences in punishment across Matrilineal and Patriarchal Societies," Discussion Papers 165743, Georg-August-Universitaet Goettingen, GlobalFood, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.
    7. Lambrecht, Isabel, 2016. "“As a husband I will love, lead, and provide:†Gendered access to land in Ghana:," IFPRI discussion papers 1514, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G18 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • K36 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Family and Personal Law
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • O55 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Africa
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics

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