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Inequality in intrahousehold allocation of resources

Modified on 2015/05/22 04:21 by Sean Zheng Paths: Read in Order Categorized as Chapter 2 - Poverty
Table II.12

From gender issues to gender statistics on inequality in intrahousehold allocation of resources: illustrative examples

Policy-relevant questions Data needed Sources of data
Do households spend the same amount of income on girls’ and boys’ education, health and nutrition? Weight of children under five years of age by sex, age and wealth status of the household.

Household expenditure on education for each child by sex and age of the child.

Household expenditure on health for each child by sex and age of the child.
Household surveys, such as DHS, MICS and LSMS.

Household income and expenditure surveys, household budget surveys and living standards surveys.
Do women and men spend the same amount of time on household chores? Do women and men have the same amount of time for leisure? Time use by type of activity and sex. Time-use surveys or time-use module included in other surveys, such as LSMS and labour force surveys.
Do married women have a say in how their own cash earnings are spent? Do married women participate in decision-making on major household purchases? Women by employment status, type of income, marital status and self-declared participation in decision-making on (a) how their own earnings are spent and (b) major household purchases. Household surveys, such as DHS.

  • + Gender issues
    • In certain contexts, fewer resources are allocated to the female members of the household. Lower returns may be expected from investing in girls’ education as opposed to boys’ in countries where women have considerably fewer opportunities than men in the labour market and where young women are expected after marriage to devote their time and resources towards their husband’s family (UNESCO, 2003). As a consequence, when household resources are limited, fewer girls than boys may be able to attend school. Girls may also have more housework responsibilities than boys, even when the household is not fighting for survival, and their school attendance and performance may therefore be more affected (UNESCO, 2003). In general, the use of time is not the same for women and for men. Overall, women work longer hours and have less leisure time than men, because domestic tasks are not equally distributed in the household (United Nations, 2010). Lastly, in contexts characterized by both limited resources and discrimination of girls and women, gender-biased access to nutrition and paid health services may also be observed (United Nations, 1998). In such contexts, girls and young women may be more likely to be undernourished and anaemic and may use health services less often than boys and young men.

      Many women are unable to fully participate in intrahousehold decision-making on economic resources, thereby limiting their influence on the intrahousehold allocation of resources. In countries in the less developed regions, particularly in the poorest households, significant proportions of married women have no say on how the household earnings, including their own cash earnings, are spent or invested (United Nations, 2010; World Bank, 2011). In countries with gender inequality in property and inheritance rights, many women are unable to participate in decision-making on the use or disposal of land (United Nations, ECE, and World Bank Institute, 2010). On the other hand, educated women, women owning assets and women with a visible in-cash contribution to the household income may have more bargaining power within the household and may be able to influence the intrahousehold allocation of resources towards more investments in children’s health and education and more gender equality (World Bank, 2011).

  • + Data needed
    • It is difficult to measure intrahousehold inequality using consumption as an indicator of individual welfare, as traditionally used at the household level. When collecting data on individual consumption, only part of the goods can be assigned to specific members of the household. Countries collecting detailed consumption data may be able to obtain the following types of sex-disaggregated data:

      (a) Household expenditure on education for each child by sex and age of the child;

      (b) Household expenditure on health for each child by sex and age of the child;

      (c) Household expenditure on some specific adult goods (e.g., clothing, footwear, tobacco) by sex of the household members consuming them.

      The use of non-consumption indicators has been more successful in illustrating gender inequality in the allocation of resources within the household. Poverty is increasingly seen not only in terms of adequacy of economic resources to avoid deprivation, but also in broader terms of the actual level of deprivation, not only in terms of food and clothing, but also in such areas as education and health outcomes and resources of time. Deprivation in those areas can be illustrated through the use of sex-disaggregated data, such as:

      (a) Children’s school attendance by sex, age and level of education;

      (b) Children’s weight by sex, age and height;

      (c) Children’s immunization by sex and age;

      (d) Time use by type of activity, sex and age.

      Data reflecting participation in intrahousehold decision-making may refer to:

      (a) Participation of women in decision-making on spending their own income by marital status;

      (b) Participation of women in decision-making on spending the household income by marital status.

      If possible, the above statistics should be disaggregated by wealth status of the household, as gender-biased allocation of resources are often more pronounced in households with limited economic resources. Breakdowns by urban/rural areas and geographical areas, reflecting differences in infrastructure and the geographical distribution of education and health services, should be taken into account. Other variables that distinguish between subgroups of populations with specific sociocultural norms and status of women, such as ethnicity, religion or migration status, should also be considered.

      The above statistics can also be disaggregated by some measures of the contribution of women to the total income of the household and their control over resources. The proportion of total income that is contributed by women and women’s ownership of land or other property are examples of such variables, although the data are not often available. More easily available and more frequently used as a breakdown variable is the female headship of the household. However, this variable can give only a partial measure of women’s control over resources, because it does not take into account women who live in male-headed households and who have control over the household resources.

  • + Sources of data
    • Living standards surveys can be used to collect the data necessary to understanding intrahousehold allocation of resources. For example, some LSMS surveys are used to collect data on the consumption of certain goods at the individual level, including expenditures on education and health. LSMS surveys are also used to collect data on access to and outcome of education and health services and on time use. The European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) has a module on material deprivation and a module on intrahousehold sharing of resources, with some of the questions formulated at the individual level.

      Demographic and health surveys, such as DHS and MICS, are a valuable source of data for non-consumption indicators of poverty. Education and health status of children and women are the focus of those types of surveys. Women’s participation in intrahousehold decision-making may also be covered, as is the case with DHS. Both DHS and MICS provide data on household assets and housing conditions that can be used to construct wealth indices and to assess whether gender gaps in education and health are larger in poorer households than in wealthier households.

      Time-use surveys can be used to show women’s and men’s time burden and how this burden is affected by poverty status or poor housing conditions.

  • + Conceptual and measurement issues
    • No standard measures of gender-related intrahousehold poverty and inequality based on consumption data are as yet available. Such measures would require collection of data on consumption or expenditure level for each member of a household. However, when collecting data on individual consumption, only part of the goods, for example, adult clothing, alcohol or tobacco or, in some cases, education and health expenditure, can be assigned to specific members of the household. It is less easy to measure how much of the food or household common goods (such as housing, water supply or sanitation) is consumed or used by each individual household member. In addition, if data are collected at the individual level and different patterns of consumption are observed, it is not always clear if such patterns are related to different individual levels of need (for example, women may require a lower caloric intake than men), to different preferences or to an unequal distribution of resources.

      Individual non-consumption measures of gender-related intrahousehold poverty and inequality need further development. Education, health and time use are key elements in the broader concept of poverty and well-being. However, the standard individual-level measures needed to capture overall gender inequality in the intrahousehold allocation of resources are not equally available for all three areas. Only for education are there international standards guiding, for example, the measurement of school attendance, literacy or educational attainment for each individual. No international standards are as yet available for summary measures of individual-level health status or time use, although some indicators are currently used by some national statistical offices or academia. For example, in the case of adult health, such individual-level measures would refer to self-reported health status or limitations on daily activities or formal work. When it comes to children, measures of immunization or nutrition are fairly standardized and widely used. In the case of time use, the summary measures of time poverty would refer to time available for leisure, total time spent on work or time spent on household chores.

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