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The family under the microscope: an experiment testing economic models of household choice

  • Munro, Alistair
  • Bateman, Ian J.
  • McNally, Tara

We devise and execute three experiments to test key features of models of household decision-making. Using established couples (married and unmarried) we test income pooling, unanimity and Pareto efficiency. Subjects make choices individually and jointly and are asked to make predictions about their partner’s choices. Unanimity is rejected. Income pooling is not rejected in joint choice but has less explanatory power in individual choice. In direct tests both sexes do not pool income completely, but in econometric tests across all tasks, women place an equal weight on payoffs but men discount their partner’s payoffs by between 15 and 20%. We find that transparency has little impact on deviations from income pooling or indeed on behaviour generally. Many joint choices deviate from the Pareto principle in a systematic manner suggesting that choices made as a couple are more risk averse than individual decisions.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 8974.

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Date of creation: 02 Jun 2008
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:8974
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  1. Bolin, Kristian & Jacobson, Lena & Lindgren, Bjorn, 2002. "The family as the health producer--when spouses act strategically," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 475-495, May.
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  3. Lundberg, S.J. & Pollak, R.A. & Wales, T.J., 1994. "Do Husbands and Wives Pool Their Resources? Evidence from U.K. Child Benefit," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 94-6, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  4. Doss, Cheryl R., 1996. "Testing among models of intrahousehold resource allocation," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 24(10), pages 1597-1609, October.
  5. Udry, Christopher, 1996. "Gender, Agricultural Production, and the Theory of the Household," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 104(5), pages 1010-46, October.
  6. M. Browning & P. A. Chiappori, 1998. "Efficient Intra-Household Allocations: A General Characterization and Empirical Tests," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(6), pages 1241-1278, November.
  7. Esther Duflo & Christopher Udry, 2003. "Intrahousehold Resource Allocation in Côte D'ivoire: Social Norms, Separate Accounts and Consumption Choices," Working Papers 857, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
  8. Warr, Peter G., 1983. "The private provision of a public good is independent of the distribution of income," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 13(2-3), pages 207-211.
  9. Harless, David W & Camerer, Colin F, 1994. "The Predictive Utility of Generalized Expected Utility Theories," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(6), pages 1251-89, November.
  10. Zhiqi Chen & Frances Woolley, 1999. "A Cournot-Nash Model of Family Decision Making," Carleton Economic Papers 99-13, Carleton University, Department of Economics, revised Oct 2001.
  11. Rothschild, Michael & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1970. "Increasing risk: I. A definition," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 225-243, September.
  12. Alistair Munro & Ian Bateman, 2004. "An Experiment On Risky Choice Amongst Households," Royal Economic Society Annual Conference 2004 77, Royal Economic Society.
  13. Alderman, Harold, et al, 1995. "Unitary versus Collective Models of the Household: Is It Time to Shift the Burden of Proof?," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 10(1), pages 1-19, February.
  14. Chiappori, Pierre-Andre & Haddad, Lawrence & Hoddinott, John & Kanbur, Ravi, 1993. "Unitary versus collective models of the household : time to shift theburden of proof?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1217, The World Bank.
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