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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)

  • Bereket Kebede
  • Marcela Tarazona-Gomez
  • Arjan Verschoor

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 the regional contrast in female autonomy for the efficiency of family decision-making. We take a sample of 1200 couples from one rural and one urban area 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Alistair Munro & Bereket Kebede & Marcela Tarazona-Gomez & Arjan Verschoor, 2011. "Autonomy or Efficiency. An experiment on household decisions in two regions of India," GRIPS Discussion Papers 10-33, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:ngi:dpaper:10-33
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    18. Alistair Munro & Bereket Kebede & Marcela Tarazona & Arjan Verschoor, 2019. "The Lion’s Share: An Experimental Analysis of Polygamy in Northern Nigeria," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 67(4), pages 833-861.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alistair Munro, 2014. "Hide and Seek: A Theory of Efficient Income Hiding within the Household," GRIPS Discussion Papers 14-17, National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.
    2. Deschênes, Sarah & Dumas, Christelle & Lambert, Sylvie, 2020. "Household resources and individual strategies," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 135(C).
    3. Lecoutere, Els & Jassogne, Laurence, 2016. ""We're in this together": Changing intra-household decision making for more cooperative smallholder farming," IOB Working Papers 2016.02, Universiteit Antwerpen, Institute of Development Policy (IOB).
    4. Castilla, Carolina, 2019. "What's yours is mine, and what's mine is mine: Field experiment on income concealing between spouses in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 125-140.
    5. Holden, Stein & Bezu, Sosina, 2014. "Are Wives less Selfish than their Husbands? Evidence from Hawk-Dove Game Field Experiments," CLTS Working Papers 3/14, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Centre for Land Tenure Studies, revised 10 Oct 2019.
    6. Hoel, Jessica B. & Hidrobo, Melissa & Bernard, Tanguy & Ashour, Maha, 2017. "Productive inefficiency in dairy farming and cooperation between spouses: Evidence from Senegal:," IFPRI discussion papers 1698, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    7. Holden, Stein & Bezu, Sosina, 2013. "Joint Land Certification and Intra-household Decision-making:Towards Empowerment of Wives?," CLTS Working Papers 14/13, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Centre for Land Tenure Studies, revised 10 Oct 2019.
    8. Hoel, Jessica B., 2015. "Heterogeneous households: A within-subject test of asymmetric information between spouses in Kenya," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 123-135.
    9. Ringdal, Charlotte & Sjursen, Ingrid Hoem, 2017. "Household bargaining and spending on children: Experimental evidence from Tanzania," Discussion Paper Series in Economics 19/2017, Norwegian School of Economics, Department of Economics.
    10. Lecoutere, E., 2018. "Making spouses cooperate in rural Ugandan households Experimental evidence of distributional treatment effects," 2018 Conference, July 28-August 2, 2018, Vancouver, British Columbia 277160, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    11. Arjan Verschoor & Bereket Kebede & Alistair Munro & Marcela Tarazona, 2019. "Spousal Control and Efficiency of Intra-household Decision-Making: Experiments among Married Couples in India, Ethiopia and Nigeria," The European Journal of Development Research, Palgrave Macmillan;European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI), vol. 31(4), pages 1171-1196, September.
    12. Michele Tertilt & Matthias Doepke, 2015. "Asymmetric Information in Couples," 2015 Meeting Papers 606, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    13. Bereket Kebede & Marcela Tarazona & Alistair Munro & Arjan Verschoor, 2014. "Intra-household Efficiency: An Experimental Study from Ethiopia," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 23(1), pages 105-150.
    14. Hélène Couprie & Elisabeth Cudeville & Catherine Sofer, 2020. "Efficiency versus gender roles and stereotypes: an experiment in domestic production," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 23(1), pages 181-211, March.
    15. Sevias Guvuriro & Frederik Booysen, 2020. "Intra-household cooperation and inter-generational communication in the extended family: a field experiment in a poor urban community in Africa," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 635-653, September.
    16. Holden, Stein & Bezu, Sosina, 2014. "Joint Land Certification, Gendered Preferences, and Land-related Decisions: Are Wives Getting More Involved?," CLTS Working Papers 6/14, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Centre for Land Tenure Studies, revised 10 Oct 2019.
    17. Matthew Osborne & Ben D’Exelle & Arjan Verschoor, 2018. "Truly reconciled? A dyadic analysis of post-conflict social reintegration in Northern Uganda," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 55(1), pages 107-121, January.
    18. Dasgupta, Utteeyo & Mani, Subha, 2015. "Only Mine or All Ours: Do Stronger Entitlements Affect Altruistic Choices in the Household," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 363-375.
    19. Alistair Munro, 2018. "Intra†Household Experiments: A Survey," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(1), pages 134-175, February.
    20. Abbink, Klaus & Islam, Asad & Nguyen, Chau, 2020. "Whose voice matters? An experimental examination of gender bias in intra-household decision-making," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 337-352.
    21. Bereket Kebede & Marcela Tarazona & Alistair Munro & Arjan Verschoor, 2014. "Intra-household Efficiency: An Experimental Study from Ethiopia," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 23(1), pages 105-150.
    22. Cheryl R. Doss & Agnes R. Quisumbing, 2020. "Understanding rural household behavior: Beyond Boserup and Becker," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 51(1), pages 47-58, January.
    23. Nitya Rao, 2012. "Male ‘Providers’ and Female ‘Housewives’: A Gendered Co-performance in Rural North India," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 43(5), pages 1025-1048, September.
    24. Charlotte Ringdal & Ingrid Hoem Sjursen, 2017. "Household bargaining and spending on children: Experimental evidence from Tanzania," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2017-128, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification

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