A large and growing body of scholarship now suggests that many household outcomes, including children’s education and nutrition, are associated with a wife’s bargaining power and control over household decision-making. In turn, bargaining power in a household is theorized to be driven by a wife’s financial and human capital assets – in particular the degree to which these assets contribute to household productivity and/or to the wife’s exit options. This paper draws on the detailed Farmer First dataset in Tanzania and Mali to examine husband and wife reports of a wife’s share of decision-making authority in polygynous households, where multiple wives jointly contribute to household productivity, and where exit options for any single wife may be less credible. We find that both husbands and wives assign less authority to the wife in polygynous households relative to monogamous households. We also find that a wife’s assets are not as strongly associated with decision-making authority in polygynous versus monogamous contexts. Finally, we find that responses to questions on spousal authority vary significantly by spouse in both polygynous and monogamous households, suggesting interventions based on the response of a single spouse may incorrectly inform policies and programs.
This paper has been submitted to a peer-reviewed publication. A preliminary technical brief is posted on this page. The brief summarizes preliminary analysis and findings, which may not reflect the final analysis submitted for peer-review. A draft of the paper is available upon request.
Findings from this report were presented at the APPAM International Conference in London in June 2016.
The code for our analysis is available in a public GitHub repository.