Intra-household decision-making and family public goods: Survey and experimental evidence from South Africa

Type Thesis or Dissertation - PhD
Title Intra-household decision-making and family public goods: Survey and experimental evidence from South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2017
Intra-household decisions are of importance in achieving various development goals, including investments in family public goods and the resultant developmental outcomes of such investments, such as the attainment of education, improved health, and general family well-being. The realisation of the development impacts of investments in family public goods requires a proper understanding of gender dynamics, economic empowerment, and intergenerational cooperation in intra-household decision-making. This thesis aims to determine the role of intra-household decision-making in family public goods investments in South Africa. The study employs South African survey data and conducts a framed field experiment in two poor communities. Descriptive statistical analyses are employed to investigate associations between key variables. In-depth analysis is conducted with the aid of regression analysis. The first key finding in this study calls specifically for gender-based economic
empowerment policies. The study finds that gender inequality in economic bargaining power within couples (heterogamy) and the broader adult population persists. Whereas women dominate the role of financial and economic decision-maker, they do so mainly as secondary decision-makers; another sign of gender inequality. However, when women are empowered economically, their decision-making power increases, and concomitantly, expenditure on family public goods. In fact, even when they are not economically empowered, expenditure on family public goods increases when females wield the decision-making power. The second finding argues more broadly for economic development policies and posits that economically empowered men spend more on family public goods, and delegate economic decision-making responsibility to their spouses, who in turn spend more on family public goods. In the third instance, the endowment size effect observed in this study is important for policy, given that the benefit of an economic opportunity for one family member of earning a wage or receiving a social grant, cascades to other family members. The final finding is that communication impacts positively on cooperation within extended inter-generational families, and that joint decision-making; which is associated with greater expenditure on food; requires communication to facilitate cooperation. This result calls for preventative and developmental social work programmes focusing on promoting communication within families, including training on parenting as well as marriage skills.

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