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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 brief presents a comparative analysis of men and women and of male- and female-headed households in Tanzania using data from the 2008/2009 wave of the Tanzania National Panel Survey (TZNPS), part of the Living Standards Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA). We compare farm activity, productivity, input use, and sales as well as labor allocations by gender of the respondent and of the household head. In households designated “female-headed” a woman was the decision maker in the household, took part in the economy, control and welfare of the household, and was recognized by others in the household as the head. For questions regarding household labor (both non-farm and farm), the gender of the individual laborer is recorded, and we use this to illustrate the responsibilities of male and female household members. An appendix provides the details for our analyses.