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Managing Economic Volatility. A Gender Perspective


  • Elena Reboul
  • Isabelle Guérin
  • Antony Raj
  • G. Venkatasubramanian


The implications of income and expenses volatility in terms of financial practices have been widely documented, demonstrating the critical role of money management in the survival of vulnerable households. The gender of this, however, is a neglected dimension. Based on data collected in South India combining ethnography and Financial Diaries, with 8 households followed for 9 months and data disaggregated by sex, this paper discusses the methodological and theoretical implications of a gender analysis of income volatility, its management and its burden. In our context of study characterized by dynamic processes of financialisation, low and volatile incomes give to credit a prominent place in budget management strategies, both from the side of inflows and outflows. Economic volatility tends to blur the boundaries between expense, saving, credit and income; and these shifts in turn question the categories of recipient, (female) money manager or (male) breadwinner. While women tend to earn low incomes, they borrow a substantial part of household debts: and accounting for these practices alters sometimes drastically the vision of their role as breadwinners that could stem from their sole earnings. Besides, beyond borrowing, women are predominantly the ones who shoulder the responsibility for debt settlement, a task that requires skills, time, and the involvement in all a range of secondary activities aiming at ensuring repayment capacity and creditworthiness. The burden of economic volatility appears thereby to be gendered, strengthening women's unpaid domestic duties through this "labour of the debt''.

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  • Elena Reboul & Isabelle Guérin & Antony Raj & G. Venkatasubramanian, 2019. "Managing Economic Volatility. A Gender Perspective," Working Papers CEB 19-015, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:sol:wpaper:2013/290603

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Supriya Garikipati & Isabelle Agier & Isabelle Guérin & Ariane Szafarz, 2017. "The Cost of Empowerment: Multiple Sources of Women’s Debt in Rural India," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 53(5), pages 700-722, May.
    2. C. Mark Blackden & Quentin Wodon, 2006. "Gender, Time Use, and Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa," World Bank Publications - Books, The World Bank Group, number 7214, December.
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    6. Deborah Thorne, 2010. "Extreme Financial Strain: Emergent Chores, Gender Inequality and Emotional Distress," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 185-197, June.
    7. Pahl, Jan, 1995. "His money, her money: Recent research on financial organisation in marriage," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 361-376, September.
    8. Kabeer, Naila, 2001. "Conflicts Over Credit: Re-Evaluating the Empowerment Potential of Loans to Women in Rural Bangladesh," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 63-84, January.
    9. Abhi Dattasharma & Rajalaxmi Kamath & Smita Ramanathan, 2016. "The Burden of Microfinance Debt: Lessons from the Ramanagaram Financial Diaries," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 47(1), pages 130-156, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Reboul, E. & Guérin, I. & Nordman, C.J., 2021. "The gender of debt and credit: Insights from rural Tamil Nadu," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 142(C).

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    More about this item


    gender; debt; volatility; division of labor; India;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination
    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance

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