Autonomy or Efficiency: An Experiment on Household Decisions in Two Regions of India
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); University of London, Royal Holloway College - Department of Economics
University of East Anglia - School of International Development and CBESS
University of Toulouse 1
University of East Anglia (UEA)
April 24, 2011
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 this regional contrast in female autonomy for the efficiency of family decision-making. We take a sample of 1200 couples from two areas 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 trade-off between autonomy and efficiency.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Keywords: Economic experiments, married couples, female autonomy, efficiency, intra-household allocation, North and South India, Dyson and Moore
JEL Classification: D130, Z130working papers series
Date posted: April 25, 2011 ; Last revised: April 28, 2011
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