Gender and Say: A Model of Household Behavior with Endogenously-Determined Balance of Power

44 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2004

See all articles by Kaushik Basu

Kaushik Basu

Cornell University - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Brookings Institution

Date Written: December 2004


The evidence that the same total income can lead a household to choose different consumption vectors, depending on who brings in how much of the income, has led to an effort to replace the standard unitary model of the household with the "collective model", which recognizes that the husband and the wife may have different preferences and depending on the balance of power between them the household may choose differently. One weakness of this new literature is that it fails to recognize that the household's choice could in turn influence the balance of power. Once this two-way relation between choice and power is recognized we are forced to confront some new questions concerning how to model the household. This paper tries to answer these by defining a "household equilibrium", examining its game-theoretic properties and drawing out its testable implications. It is shown, for instance, that once we allow for dynamic interaction a household can exhibit inefficient behavior, and that (for a certain class of parameters) children will be less likely to work in a household where power is evenly balanced, than one in which all power is concentrated in the hands of either the father or the mother. The paper also draws out the implications for female labor supply.

Keywords: Gender, Power, Household behavior, Female labor supply, Child labor

JEL Classification: D13, J22, C70

Suggested Citation

Basu, Kaushik, Gender and Say: A Model of Household Behavior with Endogenously-Determined Balance of Power (December 2004). Available at SSRN: or

Kaushik Basu (Contact Author)

Cornell University - Department of Economics ( email )

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Brookings Institution ( email )

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