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Why household inefficiency? An experimental approach to assess spousal resource distribution preferences in a subsistence population undergoing socioeconomic change

Author

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  • Gurven, Michael
  • Hopfensitz, Astrid
  • Kaplan, Hillard
  • Stieglitz, Jonathan

Abstract

Two disparate views of the sexual division of labour have dominated the 53 representation of intra-household resource allocations. These joint and separate interests 54 views differ in their interpretation of the relative roles of men and women, and make different 55 predictions about the extent to which marriage promotes economic efficiency (i.e. maximized 56 household production). Using an experimental “distribution task” stipulating a trade-off 57 between household efficiency and spousal equality in allocating surpluses of meat and 58 money, we examine factors influencing spousal distribution preferences among Tsimane 59 forager-horticulturalists of Bolivia (n=53 couples). Our primary goal is to understand whether 60 and how access to perfectly fungible and liquid resources – which increases with greater 61 participation in market economies – shifts intra-household distribution preferences. We 62 hypothesize that greater fungibility of money compared to meat results in greater squandering 63 of money for individual fitness gain at a cost to the family. Money therefore requires costly 64 strategies to insure against a partner’s claims for consumption. Whereas nearly all Tsimane 65 spouses prefer efficient meat distributions, we find a substantially reduced efficiency 66 preference for money compared to meat controlling for potential confounders (adjusted 67 OR=0.087, 95% CI: 0.02-0.38). Reported marital conflict over paternal disinvestment is 68 associated with a nearly 13-fold increase in odds of revealing a selfish money distribution 69 preference. Selfish husbands are significantly more likely than other husbands to be paired 70 with selfish wives. Lastly, Tsimane husbands and wives are more likely than Western 71 Europeans to prefer an efficient money distribution, but Tsimane wives are more likely than 72 Western European wives to exhibit a selfish preference. In sum, preferences for the 73 distribution of household production surplus support joint and separate interests views of 74 marriage; a hybrid approach best explains how ecological-, family-, and individual-level 75 factors influence spousal preferences through their effects on perceptions of marginal gains 76 within and outside the household.

Suggested Citation

  • Gurven, Michael & Hopfensitz, Astrid & Kaplan, Hillard & Stieglitz, Jonathan, 2016. "Why household inefficiency? An experimental approach to assess spousal resource distribution preferences in a subsistence population undergoing socioeconomic change," TSE Working Papers 16-670, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  • Handle: RePEc:tse:wpaper:30550
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Donni, Olivier & Molina, José Alberto, 2018. "Household Collective Models: Three Decades of Theoretical Contributions and Empirical Evidence," IZA Discussion Papers 11915, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Intra-household distribution; sexual division of labour; family; marriage; bargaining; Tsimane;

    JEL classification:

    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • F - International Economics

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