The paper reviews recent theory and empirical evidence testing unitary versus collective models of the household. In contrast to the unitary model, the collective model posits that individuals within households have different preferences and do not pool their income. Moreover, the collective model predicts that intrahousehold allocations reflect differences in preferences and "bargaining power" of individuals within the household. Using new household data sets from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and South Africa, we present measures of individual characteristics that are highly correlated with bargaining power, namely human capital and individually-controlled assets, evaluated at the time of marriage. In all the country case studies we reject the unitary model as a description of household behavior, but to different degrees. Results suggest that assets controlled by women have a positive and significant effect on expenditure allocations towards the next generation, such as education and children's clothing. We also examine individual-level education outcomes and find that parents do not have identical preferences towards sons and daughters within or across countries.
This paper is part of a series of papers on selected topics commissioned for the forthcoming Policy Research Report on Gender and Development. The PRR is being carried out by Elizabeth King and Andrew Mason and co-sponsored by the World Bank’s Development Economics Research Group and the Gender and Development Group of the Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network. Printed copies of this paper are available free from the World Bank, 1818 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20433. Please contact Owen Haaga, in room MC8-434 or at Gnetwork@worldbank.org . Comments are welcome and should be sent directly to the author(s) at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
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