Family Ties, Inheritance Rights, and Successful Poverty Alleviation: Evidence from Ghana

50 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2012

See all articles by Edward Kutsoati

Edward Kutsoati

Tufts University - Department of Economics

Randall Morck

University of Alberta - Department of Finance and Statistical Analysis; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); European Corporate Governence Institute; Asian Bureau of Finance and Economic Research

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 29, 2012

Abstract

Ghanaian custom views children as members of either their mother’s or father’s lineage (extended family), but not both. Patrilineal custom charges a man’s lineage with caring for his widow and children, while matrilineal custom places this burden on the widows’ lineage – her father, brothers, and uncles. Deeming custom inadequate, and to promote the nuclear family, Ghana enacted the Intestate Succession (PNDC) Law 111, 1985 and 1998 Children’s Act 560 to force men to provide for their widows and children, as in Western cultures. Our survey shows that, although most people die intestate and many profess to know Law 111, it is rarely implemented. Knowledge of the law correlates with couples accumulating assets jointly and with inter-vivos husband to wife transfers, controlling for education. These effects are least evident for widows of matrilineal lineage men, suggesting a persistence of traditional norms. Widows with closer ties with their own or their spouse’s lineage report greater financial support, as do those very few who benefit from legal wills or access Law 111 and, importantly, widows of matrilineal lineage. Some evidence also supports Act 560 benefiting nuclear families, especially if the decedent’s lineage is matrilineal. Overall, our study confirms African traditional institutions’ persistent importance, and the limited effects of formal law.

Keywords: Africa, Ghana, Bequests, Social Security, Customary Law, Economic Anthropology

JEL Classification: G23, O16, O17, O55, H55, J12, J14, J16, J26, K00

Suggested Citation

Kutsoati, Edward and Morck, Randall K., Family Ties, Inheritance Rights, and Successful Poverty Alleviation: Evidence from Ghana (February 29, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2020542 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2020542

Edward Kutsoati

Tufts University - Department of Economics ( email )

Medford, MA 02155
United States
617-627-2688 (Phone)
617-627-3917 (Fax)

Randall K. Morck (Contact Author)

University of Alberta - Department of Finance and Statistical Analysis ( email )

2-32C Business Building
Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2R6
Canada
780-492-5683 (Phone)
780-492-3325 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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United States

European Corporate Governence Institute ( email )

c/o ECARES ULB CP 114
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Belgium

Asian Bureau of Finance and Economic Research ( email )

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1 Business Link
Singapore, 117592
Singapore

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