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Control and Ownership of Assets Within Rural Ethiopian Households

  • Marcel Fafchamps
  • Agnes R Quisumbing

This paper investigates how the control and devolution of productive assets are allocated among husband and wife. Theory predicts that bargaining power within marriage depends on the division of assets upon divorce (exit option) and on control over assets during marriage (non-cooperative marriage). In empirical applications, bargaining power is typically proxied by variables such as dowry payments, assets brought to marriage, and ownership of assets within marriage. Using detailed household data from rural Ethiopia, we show that assets brought to marriage, ownership of assets, control within marriage, and disposition upon death or divorce are only partly related. In rural Ethiopia, control over productive resources is centralized into the hands of the household head, be it a man or a woman, irrespective of ownership at or after marriage. Disposition upon death or divorce only loosely depends on individual ownership during marriage but control over assets is associated with larger claims over these assets upon divorce, a finding consistent with the presence of incentive problems. We also find that assets brought into marriage have little impact on disposition upon death, but matter in case of divorce.

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Paper provided by University of Oxford, Department of Economics in its series Economics Series Working Papers with number WPS/2000-27.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 2000
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Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:wps/2000-27
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