THE INTERRELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE DIVISION OF LABOR IN THE
HOUSEHOLD, WOMEN'S ROLES AND THEIR IMPACT UPON FERTILITY
Nadia H. Youssef
International Center for Research on Women
Paper Presented at the: Informal Workshop on Women's Role and
Demographic Research Programme. International Labour
Organization. Geneva, November, 1978
The relationship between the status of women and fertility is neither
direct nor simple. The three aspects of women's status most frequently
linked to fertility are education, employment, and the husband-wife rela-
tionship. Each of these variables affects the others as well as fertility;
employment opportunities are affected by education, conjugal interaction is
influenced by the education and employment of the wife (and husband), and
vice-versa (Piepmeier, K. and T.S. Adkins, 1973). This paper addresses
itself to the question of whether another factor--the division of labor
between the sexes within rural households--may also influence fertility
My primary interest is to explore the ways in which tasks are divided
between the sexes in both labor-use-value and exchange-value production, in
order to understand how such allocations influence, or are influenced by,
the status and position of women in rural society and what effect these
interactions may have on fertility. My ultimate purpose is to suggest the
formulation of some propositional statements and hypotheses which address
themselves to the following key issues:
Under what conditions does a specific patterning in the sexual division
of labor within the household generate a resource base for women?
Under what conditions do resource bases for women get translated into
power in other spheres and into the development of higher status for
How do specific patternings in the sex-based division of labor interact
with components of women's status to influence reproductive behavior?
My manner of presentation in what follows is to state and explain my
propositional statements, drawing upon previously suggested formulations
and empirical findings in the literature. A variety of comparative work
yields some evidence for some of the hypotheses sets which I present; the
others are a natural outcome of the particular approach that I have taken
to the present issue. The hypotheses outlined are by no means exhaustive;
they are intended to be suggestive. I have outlined specific research
topics related to the propositional statements outlined and the hypotheses
suggested. Lastly, I present an extensive listing of questions which should
receive special attention. A particular research methodology is developed
which combines both a micro and macro approach for the collection of the
data on the economic and social roles of women in rural areas.
It is only recently that the literature on women's activities has in-
cluded studies of women's non-wage-earning economic activities in rural
settings: their participation in agricultural activities, in marketing, in
home production of goods, and in small-scale petty trade (Deere, 1978).
Macro-level information may acknowledge women's economic role in labor-
intensive activities such as plowing, planting and harvesting--all of which
are performed outside the household--but in order to assess the contribution
of women (and children) to household income or resources, economic activities
must be defined more broadly to include such activities as agricultural and
pastoral labor, fishing, hunting, poultry-raising, house building, tool
making, spinning and weaving, other arts and crafts, marketing, shopping,
transportation, fuel collecting, water carrying food preparation and proces-
sing, washing, etc. (Nag, 1976). Such activities have not been considered
to be "productive" and therefore in most cases have not been included in
census data or labor force statistics. If women who perform these tasks
have been included in the data at all, they are most likely to have been
classified under the general rubric of "unpaid family workers", which is
so poorly measured.
The attempt to encompass in the definition of economic activities
those activities assigned to women on the basis of labor allocation deci-
sions within the rural household should contribute to a more complete pro-
file of the total range of women's economic roles. It should also under-
line the strong links that exist between the subsistence economy and the
Because the majority of women in the developing world still live in
rural areas where wage-earning opportunities for either sex are relatively
restricted, exploration of the possible influence that these "other" eco-
nomic activities may exert upon fertility behavior seems especially impor-
tant (Mason, 1971).
For the purpose of this discussion I will equate labor allocation for
use-value and exchange-value production with work and, therefore, draw upon
various analytical concepts and empirical findings that are suggested by the
status-employment-fertility relationship to develop ideas for a system of
analysis that might provide a new approach to the study of fertility patterns
in rural areas.
One of the more consistent findings in demographic literature has been
that women's employment in agricultural (rather than nonagricultural) activities,
and in work at or near the home (rather than work outside the home) has a
neutral, if not a positive effect on fertility. I would like to extend
these ideas to make a finer division within rural economic activities--one
that goes beyond the broad distinction between agricultural/nonagricultural
sphere and work away from home and in and around the home. Conceivably a
close analysis of the sexual division of labor within rural households
might give us a better idea of the total work that women perform than do
the current definitions of work which exclude house-basedactivities. Be-
cause of the strong interdependency in rural households, between housework
which is not directly productive (i.e. in generating income) and productive
labor, a consideration of the linkage between the sexual division of labor
and reproductive behavior may help to better explain differential fertility
Before exploring the nature of these linkages, a brief consideration
of the literature on the relationship between employment and fertility is
indicated, so that we might examine whether the components of that partic-
ular relationship and the empirical findings derived from studies on it can
be usefully adapted to the present concern. The review of the literature
that follows is intended to be suggestive of trends and not to reflect the
whole range of research on this subject.
I. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN WOMEN'S WORK
A. Theoretical Positions
There are as yet unresolved problems in the interpretation of the
labor-fertility relationship. Research to date has failed to provide a
clear and consistent explanation of the relationship and has not confirmed
causality. Do fertility levels affect women's involvement in economic ac-
tivities rather than vice-versa? Do women work only until they have chil-
dren or because they cannot have children at all, or does working cause them
to delay or even forego childbearing? Significant effects work in both di-
rections. Recent studies have leaned heavily toward the interpretation
that fertility influences labor force participation more than labor affects
fertility (Dixon, 1978).
It has also been suggested that if and when a negative association
between the two variables occurs, it is because employment affects child
spacing, not total fertility. There is evidence for the United States that
women's labor force participation is indeed directly related to the length
of the interval between births (Namboodiri, 1964), but whether the woman
who works ever "catches up" to those who do not work in terms of total
number of children is unclear. Namboodiri argues they do not; Freedman
(1963) argues that they do, basing her inference on the fact that while work
participation is one of the strongest predictors of fertility for U.S.
women married less than ten years, it is one of the weaker predictors for
women married ten years or more (Mason, 1971).
Theoretical statements postulating an inverse relationship between
female employment and fertility have been advanced by economists and socio-
logists. The former have attempted to explain fertility as a function of
rational economic choice within the household, by husband and wife. The
"new home economics" offers a theory that begins with the assumption that
children, like other goods, involve costs and benefits. Within this
perspective, an increase in wife's market wage rate will have two economic
effects. First it will increase household income, making it possible for
a couple to have a larger family. This is known as the income effect hy-
pothesis which favors fertility. Second, it will increase the opportunity
cost of the wife's time spent in nonmarket activities, inducing her to
reallocate her time in favor of market activities. If child care is more
time-intensive for the wife than are other nonmarket activities, the oppor-
tunity cost of children will increase more than will that of other demands
on her time, and she will choose to have a smaller family (Ridker, 1977).
Sociologists would argue that the pure income effect could also predict
that employment would have an "indirect" influence on fertility. Because
of a working daughter's economic contribution to the home, parents may find
it advantageous to postpone the daughter's marriage, and they may decide to
have fewer children themselves as they become less dependent on sons for
economic survival (Dixon, 1978).
The sociologists' argument, which is grounded in the experience of
Western Europe and the United States* where there has historically been an
inverse relationship between female labor participation and actual family
The inverse relationship between labor force participation and
fertility (actual, desired, ideal or expected) is found in numerous studies
and is one of the strongest correlations between a social variable and fer-
tility behavior. Studies in the United States (Blake, 1965; D. Freedman,
1963; Goldberg, 1957; Ridley, 1959; Kiser and Frank, 1967; Pratt and
Whelpton, 1956; Whelpton et al.,1966; Clarkson et al., 1970; and Westoff
and Potvin, 1967), in Western Europe and North America (Collver, 1968; Collver
and Langlois, 1962; Freedman, Baumert and Bolte, 1959), in Israel (Bachi and
Matras, 1964; Ben Porath, 1970); in the USSR (Vosztrikova, 1961).
size, and family size expectations/desires for family postulates that employ-
ment outside the home entails satisfaction, alternatives to children, or the
means to such satisfaction in the forms of financial remuneration. Forgoing
employment will often be experienced as a cost--one of the costs--of having
children. Thus employment is a means of introducing into women's lives the
subjective awareness of opportunity costs involved in childbearing, an
awareness that traditional feminine roles and activities seem designed to
circumvent (Blake, 1965).
Contradictions in the empirical relationship between the two variables
have led both economists and sociologists to include certain specifications
in their postulates about the influence of female employment on fertility.*
These specifications address the central question of why and under what con-
ditions employment would affect fertility patterns.
Stycos and Weller developed the concept of role compatibility and
designed a hypothetical matrix defining the relationship of fertility to fe-
male employment under varying societal conditions. They chose compatibility
of mother-worker roles and availability of contraceptive devices as two fac-
tors that determine the existence of and direction of a relationship between
fertility and women's labor force participation (Stycos and Weller, 1967).
Dixon rightfully points out that "contradictory findings are par-
tially by use of different methodological approaches. Some studies use
aggregate national or sub-national data in ecological correlations; others
use census data for comparisons across major populations sub-groups or for
analyses of aggregate changes over time; still others are based on lengthy
personal interviews, including work and pregnancy histories. The dependent
variables also differ. Some use actual measures of fertility, i.e. number
of children ever born; others use number of additional births expected or
wanted, ideal family size, or family planning, knowledge, attitudes and
practices" (Dixon, 1978).
Birdsall argues for the need to conceptualize a cost-reward ratio in
women's employment as being more-or-less favorable to childbearing in both
economic and psychological terms. The bulk of conventional economic or
socioeconomic-research on fertility has assumed a commonality or congruence
of interest between husband and wife in desiring a child. This is grounded
in the principle that it is the household that maximizes its utility
(Birdsall, 1975). The introduction of psychological variables into the
equation assumes that differences or divergences can arise between husband
and wife with regard to interest in children. Such variables include "role
extensiveness" of males and females, the nature of the relationship between
husband and wife, "machismo," type of marriage, sexual gratification, etc.
These variables refer to family and individual characteristics and distinguish
thereby among couples who share a common socioeconomic background (Goldberg,
1974). Liebenstein's theory of selective rationality, though not specifically
addressed to the issue of the employment-fertility relationship, proposed the
need, in the analysis of fertility-related behavior, to focus on the individ-
ual (not the household) as the basic decision-making unit, and to assume that
differential interests (as opposed to identity of interests) prevail within
household regarding decisions related to fertility. Family size may be de-
termined'by"a lack of calculation of considerations; or by extremely gross
calculations; or by a lack of caring of the connection between current be-
havior and future consequences" (Liebenstein, 1977).
Let us now examine some of the empiral relationships between female em-
ployment and fertility.
B. The Evidence for a Negative Association Between Female Employment and
A negative association between female employment and fertility in
developing countries was found in the 1950-1960 Puerto Rico data (Carleton,
1964; Weller, 1968; Nerlove and Schultz, 1970) and corroborated by findings
in Costa Rica, Chile, and Taiwan (Carrajal and Geithmann, 1973; Da Vanzo,
1972; Liu, 1973), Colombia (Chi and Harris, 1975) and elsewhere in Latin
America (Miro, 1966; Requena B., 1965; Miro and Mertens, 1968; Stycos, 1968;
Gendell, 1970) and in the Phillipines (Hartman, 1970). All indicate that
women's past, present, or expected labor force participation is inversely
associated with her fertility behavior or directly associated with use of
contraception and abortion.
Studies that distinguish between rural and urban residence have shown
that for urban women in modern labor force occupations work decreases fer-
tility at both the individual level (Kupinski, 1971; Miro and Rath, 1975)
and the aggregate level (Collver and Langlois, 1967; Heer and Turner, 1965;
Jaffe and Azumi, 1959). This could be due to place of residence per se or
to the greater tendency of urban women to work outside the home. In metro-
politan areas of 20 countries of varying modernization levels, the Pearsonian
correlation was -0.60. The regression equation shows that the number of
children per 100 women declined by 7 for each 1 percent increase in the work
participation rates (Collver and Langlois, 1962).
The CELADE data which covers Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, Caracas, Panama,
Mexico City, San Jose, Buenos Aires, and Brazil indicate in all comparative
fertility studies that urban working women at the aggregate level have a
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lower average number of children than nonworking women. These findings
are confirmed for other parts of Latin America by Gendell, Maraviglia and
Kreitner, 1970; Stycos, 1965; Heer, 1964; Stycos and Weller, 1967; Weller,
1968; Miro and Mertens 1968; for Egypt by Bindary et. al., 1973; and for
Bangkok by Goldstein, 1974.
More specific evidence of the negative relationship between female
employment and fertility is provided by disaggregating employment data to
distinguish between occupational categories according to sector and place
of employment. Such analysis shows that it is only when the roles of
worker and mother are incompatible, in conflict, that employment status will
affect fertility. In what is now considered a seminal work, Jaffe and
Azumi (1960) demonstrated that in Japan and Puerto Rico fertility of women
who work at home, is highest among agricultural workers and only slightly
lower among cottage industry workers, as compared to women who do not con-
tribute to family income. It is women who leave their home for work whose
fertility is lowest, regardless of residence or age (Jaffe and Azumi, 1960),
These findings are confirmed in Turkey (Stycos and Weller, 1967),
Colombia (Chi, Harris, 1975), and in metropolitan areas of Latin America
Analysis of urban female employment data by specific occupational cate-
gories for Puerto Rico, Bangkok, Lima, Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, San Jose,
Panama, Brazil, and Caracas, indicates that the lowest fertility levels are
found among women who are professionals, administrative, and white-collar
workers (Weller, 1968; Goldstein, 1972; Stycos and Weller, 1967; Hass, 1971).
In Lima, Peru, professionally and technically employed women average 14
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percent fewer births than non-white collar workers and 43 percent fewer
births than housewives (Stycos and Weller, 1967). Except for Mexico
City and Caracas, women in Latin American cities who work
full-time outside the home have lower fertility than part-time workers
The trends in fertility of women who are in domestic service are
unclear. The Collver and Langlois analysis (1962) excludes domestic
service from their metropolitan employment figures, on the assumption
(later confirmed by Stycos and Weller, 1967) that domestic servants dis-
play high fertility because live-in arrangements provided for the accom-
modation of working and maternal roles. More recent findings, however,
seem to contradict this assumption: they indicate that domestic servants
display lower fertility than any other economically active urban group of
women and mothers (Gendell et. al., 1970; Chaplin, 1968).
Are specific occupations, place of employment, and employment status
in any way reflected in women's decisions about contraceptive use? The
data on this question is not consistent from one Latin American city to the
other. In Rio de Janeiro, Bogota, San Jose, and Panama City, white-collar
employees use contraceptives earlier and more frequently than non-white
collar workers and housewives (Hass, 1971). Full-time work status is in no
way linked to extend and timing of contraceptive usage. Work outside the
home and longer work hours do affect contraceptive use in San Jose and
Panama City in the expected direction. In Mexico City, Caracas, Brazil,
and Colombia, neither employment status nor place of employment influence
contraceptive use (Hass, 1971; Chi and Harris, 1975).
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C. The Evidence for a Neutral or a Positive Association Between Female
Employment and Fertility
Another body of research reveals either no association or a positive
association between female labor force participation and fertility. This
is most true among rural women workers and among urban women who are
involved in marginal income-earning activities.
There are several reasons for there being a positive relationship
between the two variables in developing countries. First, the income
effect (desire to have more children as income rises) could be strong at
low levels of income, as is suggested by an analysis of the Egyptian data
(Bindary et. al., 1973). Second, poverty forces women into the labor
market because their families need additional income; they work because
they have to not necessarily because they want to, therefore their work
may not affect their fertility decisions (Lee Hyo Chai and Cho Hyoung,
1976). Third, the opportunity costs of children in some circumstances are
low. Large families and extended families make it easier to find substi-
tutes for the mothers time in child rearing. The jobs set aside for women
in developing countries are often compatible with childcare--or at least
are less incompatible than are jobs in formal "modernized" work settings.
The effect of work upon fertility may also differ according to a
woman's stage in the life cycle. Using age-specific data, Goldstein finds
for Thailand a negative association between work status and fertility for
women up to age 30, but a positive association thereafter, with the differ-
ential between Thai working and nonworking women aged 45 and over as high
as 15 percent (Goldstein, 1972).
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That there are unmeasured influences or structural conditions inde-
pendent of employment status that operate to counteract the expected
effect of female employment upon fertility is suggested by a comparative
analysis of the data from Middle Eastern Muslim countries and the Soviet
Islamic Republics. Despite substantially higher rates of economic par-
ticipation among women in the Soviet Islamic Republic, these women dis-
played both higher fertility levels and higher fertility ideals than did
Muslim women in the Middle East and North America, whose economic activity
rates are extremely low (Heer Youssef, 1976),* Zarate (1967) in a sample
of Mexican males finds a relationship between the wife's work prior to
marriage and subsequent fertility of the husband, but none between work
experience after marriage and fertility. Minkler (1970), in a study of
New Delhi teachers and uneducated women, finds no association between ideal
family size and work status, but the less educated women do have much
higher actual fertility than do the women teachers. A study of Central
India finds a positive relationship between employment status and fertility,
but this relationship is reduced to zero when controlled for age (Driver,
Several studies have shown that the fertility of working women in rural
areas is higher than the fertility of nonworking women in urban areas. This
Heer suggests that the fact that the Soviet Islamic Republics are
a minority group in a larger society hostile to the institutionalization of
Islamic ideology may have served to motivate their higher fertility levels
and ideals, counteracting the effect of the high status women occupy in the
social structure (measured by economic activity rate and education).
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is true in some European countries, as well as in developing countries.
In Italy, the greatest differentials in fertility in the north occurred
between women doing permanent agricultural work (fertility rate, 135.0)
and women doing permanent nonagricultural work (fertility rate, 75.0),
with housewives in between (fertility rate, 117.6) (Pinelli, 1971). In
Japan, rural women in agricultural work who averaged 3.5 children (compared
to 2.8 for nonworking women) had a higher fertility than rural nonworking
women, because larger families created a need for more household income.
In Thailand, rural agricultural female workers registered a higher number
of children-ever-borne to 1000 ever-married women (4.5) than did urban
housewives (3.8) or Bangkok housewives (3.7). Rural agricultural women
workers in Thailand also had a higher fertility rate (4.5) than rural women
who were not agricultural workers (4.3) (Goldstein, 1972).
The Effect of Work Satisfaction and Work Commitment in Reducing Fer-
tility: Female employment is expected to lower fertility if the nature of
work is such that the woman's interest in having a large family is reduced.
That notion may be true for middle-or upper-class women with considerable
education who can aspire to well-paid and/or highly satisfying jobs. For
most women in developing nations such work opportunities are not available.
Nevertheless "attitude toward work" is important in understanding the
dynamics between women's work and fertility behavior.
In urban Greece, women with a high work commitment have fewer children
and use birth control more effectively than women with low work commitment;
working women who had a low work commitment had about as many children as
housewives (Safilios Rothschild, 1972). In Italy, women who worked because
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they wanted to be independent and were interested in work had fewer chil-
dren than women who stated that they worked only because of economic need
That job satisfaction influences a couple's fertility decisions, even
when a large number of socioeconomic, modernity, and birth control varia-
bles are controlled for, is borne out by Tunisian data (Suzman, Miller and
Charrad, 1976). Results of that study support the hypothesis that a
woman's job satisfaction is inversely related to fertility.
A woman's conception of appropriate sex-role behavior, particularly
with respect to maternal roles, is important and should taken into account
regardless of whether she conforms to such standards herself. Women who
approve of nondomestic roles, even if they do not work outside the home
appear to have a greater desire to limit fertility. When Hass (1972)
introduced controls such as female education, age at first sexual union,
and variables related to attitude to sex roles (particularly degree of
approval of maternal employment), the fertility differential initially
ascribed to place of employment and type of occupation disappeared. Edu-
cation and approval of nondomestic activities for women seemed to be as
effective as incompatability of work and maternal roles in explaining
differences in fertility behavior among urban Latin American women. Simi-
larly, women employed outside the home who disapproved of nondomestic roles
for women had the lowest score on the contraceptive usage index.
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II. THE INTERRELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE SEXUAL DIVISION OF LABOR,
THE DEVELOPMENT OF HIGHER STATUS FOR WOMEN, AND
THE MOTIVATION FOR FERTILITY
Several important facts have emerged from the preceding discussion.
One is that the bulk of research on the economic activities-fertility
relationship has studied reproductive behavior and fertility-related atti-
tudes among a "working" female population that is linked to a formal, or
at least an identifiable, labor market. A second is that the effect of
women's work upon fertility varies according to the specific type of work
performed and woman's place of employment. Another is that woman's work
in rural areas, specifically in the agricultural sector, appears to have
a neutral, if not in fact a positive, effect on fertility.
Earlier I proposed that the division of labor between the sexes within
rural households might be a more comprehensive concept than the currently
measured work activities of rural women, and one which might provide a
linkage to motivations related to fertility behavior. Specifically, I men-
tioned the need to pursue the flow of the relationship between the sexual
division of labor and variables related to women's status in the rural com-
munity, and how these all might combine to interact and influence fertility.
Definitional Issues: It is important to acknowledge that such a divi-
sion is by no means a given.Specific patterns of the division of labor with-
in the family unit and degrees of sex role specialization are dynamic and
reflect responses to both endogenous and exogenous social, economic, and
political pressures. I will address myself to three major determinants,
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with particular focus on the implication these have upon labor-allocation
decisions for rural women.
a) The level of agricultural complexity and differentiation
b) The level of hierarchization of the community, particularly in
c) The purpose and scale of the economic activity performed.
For what I consider to be distinct aspects of the core concept "status,"
particularly as it refers to rural women, I will use some of the measures
proposed by Martin K. Whyte (1978), which I believe, are congruent with
Dixon's definition of status as "a broad and inclusive term that may cover
the differential power, prestige, rights, privileges and importance of
women relative to men" (Dixon, 1978). From the several measures proposed
by Whyte, I consider the following to be crucial, although they by no means
reflect the entire range of aspects of status/power:
Power of women in kinship context;
Value placed on lives of women;
For discussion on the impact that the needs of the international market
bear upon shaping agricultural policies of production relations, the sexual
division of labor within the household and the particular manner in which
women are thereby affected, refer to: "The Impact on Women of Socio Eco-
nomic Changes". United Nations Research Institute for Social Development,
For an excellent analysis of the intervention of two different types of
capital--merchant capital and circulation capital--and the different effects
such intervention can have on the sexual division of labor, see Kate Young.
"Modes of Appropriation and the Sexual Division of Labor: A case Study from
Oaxaca, Mexico". Paper presented at the LASA Meeting. Houston, Texas, 1977.
For other attempts to develop indicators of the status of women, see
Mukherjee (1974, 1975) for Indian society; Sanday (1973) for tribal and
agrarian societies; Dixon (1976) and Safillios Rothschild (1971) for indus-
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Value placed on labor of women;
Control over woman's marital and sexual life;
Male/female joint participation.
Each of these variables has intrinsic power or status implications, but
there is no guarantee that each and every single aspect will be highly
related to the other. In fact, aspects of status are often found to be
largely independent of each other, so that no one particular variable, if
knownpcan predict how women fare on other measures (Whyte, 1978). It is
therefore difficult to arrive at final definitions of "high status," "low
status," "power," etc.
Fertility measures should encompass the conventional measures, i.e.
actual fertility behavior (number of children ever born, controlled by the
woman's age and duration of marriage); expressed attitudes toward addi-
tional births (births expected or wanted, ideal family size); and attitudes
toward, and knowledge of, fertility control. The basic unit of analysis
that is here proposed is not conventional, however, it is the individual
fertility of the woman; the woman, not the couple or the household, is the
basic unit of analysis.
The complexity of the relationship between status variables and marital
power is best illustrated in Kofyar society in the Jos Plateau of Nigeria.
Women there have considerable independence and social power, despite the
fact that their institutionalized roles in patrilineal kin groups and
village politics are minimal. They own little property, they marry viri-
clocally and they play as subordinate part in religious observances. They
do, however, make important economic decisions in allocating their own
incomes and labor services. They also have the right to either terminate
their marriages or to accept lovers in a socially recognized relationships.
With a relatively unimportant sexual division of labor and limited marital
and economic control, husbands are able to achieve little domestic author-
ity over their wives. The indications are that male dominance is asserted
chiefly, though not entirely successfully, in symbolic terms through sex-
segregated rites and ritual injunctions (Me C. Netting, 1969).
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A. Determinants of the Division of Labor Between the Sexes
1. There is a relationship between the level of agricultural complexity
and differentiation and the sex-specific division of labor within
the rural household
The extent and type of female family labor in agricultural work are
conditioned by the interaction between differences in the technical nature
of farming operations and systems of cultivation. As agricultural complex-
ity and differentiation increase, the demand for female labor in agriculture
decreases and the role of women in the agricultural production process
becomes less visible. Boserup (1970)classifies systems of subsistence farm-
ing according to whether field work is done almost exclusively by women,
predominantly by women, or predominantly by men. In systems of shifting
cultivation where the plough is not used, women play a very active part in
agricultural production. In areas of low population density it is not nec-
essary to have a large crop in order to survive, therefore there can be less
labor input per unit of agricultural output and most farm work can be left
to women. In densely populated regions, subsistence agriculture demands
much more labor, and men have to do much of the work.
When the ploughing of permanent fields is introduced in lieu of shifting
cultivation, a radical shift in sex role specialization occurs. Basically,
female farming systems disappear. The plough is used by men; women are left
to perform some hand operations. In densely populated regions where there
is extensive plough cultivation (such as Arab and Latin American countries)
there is little demand for female labor except to help with the harvest and
to care for domestic animals. Women (and children) come to constitute a
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marginal labor force utilized to meet peak seasonal labor demands and
needs (Boserup, 1970).
The productivity of women's agricultural labor is further reduced with
the introduction of improved agricultural technology and cash crops, for
men are thought to be primary income producers. They are taught to apply
modern methods of agriculture, particularly in the cultivation of cash
crops, and to use part of their earnings from cash crops to invest in the
improvement of production. Women who only raise crops for family use,
continue to use traditional methods of cultivation and are thus unable to
derive cash income for eventual improvement of their farming technique.
The relative status of women in agriculture declines sharply.
The sexual division of labor is conditioned by variations in the
demand for labor. This, in turn, is dependent upon the particular crops
that are grown. Because vegetables, cotton and irrigated rice are very
labor-intensive crops there is a large demand of female labor where they
are grown. In grain agricultural economies female labor demand is seasonal
and concentrated in brief time periods. In plantation zones, where men are
employed, it is the women who have to take over subsistence production.
2. There is a relationship between stratification variables/hierarchization
of the community, particularly on the basis of private appropriation
of land, and the division of labor between the sexes within the rural
Deere (1978) and Young (1977) argued forcefully that it is important
to recognize social differentiation among the peasantry, which is based upon
differential access to the means of production, and the form of integration
of the household into the wider economy as factors conditioning the sexual
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division of labor. Access to the means of production determines the
structure of the particular process of appropriation and distribution of
the surplus generated by familiar labor, after basic requirements to re-
produce the household level of subsistence consumption have been fulfilled.
Lack of land requires the poorest peasant strata to depend on non-agricul-
tural activities for their livelihood and forces them into the sale of
labor power for a wage. Access to sufficient resources allows other ele-
ments of the peasantry to purchase wage labor to carry out productive activ-
ities and to engage in petty commodity production (crop or animal raising,
The implications of this social differentiation process for the econ-
omic role of women are far reaching, since different opportunity costs by
sex in the labor market operate to influence the division of labor between
the sexes within the household among different state (Deere, 1978). Larger
farmers use the labor of the women and children in the household as much as
do small farmers. They can now hire wage labor for most of the agricultural
work. The social prestige that accompanies land ownership is clearly reflect-
ed in attitudes of large farmers, who look decreasingly upon their wives and
children as a source for labor (Mueller, 1976).
Female family members of farmers who own land are the ones who benefit
most from the availability of the landless peasantry who work for wages
(Boserup). For a large percentage of these "upper strata" women, agricul-
tural work comes to be defined as "inappropriate" work for women. The result
is that they are able to devote themselves largely to work within the home
and to leave work in the fields to male family members and hired labor.
- 22 -
Land ownership operates to bring about significant cleavage between
strata in terms of the degree of sex role specialization. Among the poor
and landless, few economic activities are defined as inappropriate for
women. Sex role differentiation is blurred. Among the landless farmers,
female family workers participate equally in all kinds of agricultural
activities (except plouhing), use most tools and implements, and have equal
control with men over the disposition of both produce and the proceeds from
its sale (Young, 1977; Deere, 1978). It is these women who become involved
in artisan production and supply the bulk of female wage labor.
Among the upper strata of the peasantry, by contrast, a high degree of
segregation of work roles is evident. Restrictions are imposed upon women's
use of implements and tools, on their participation in decisions related to
agricultural production, and on their responsibility and/or control over
marketing or any other kind of commercialization of commodities which they
have aided in producing (Young, 1977; Deere, 1978).The only activity outside
of agriculture which women from this strata are likely to pursue is trade,
where they attain a considerable degree of autonomy.
Myrdal has often stated that restriction on labor, is grounded in
economics and not in culture, When there is surplus of labor and marginal
productivity is consequently low, culture "restricts" the effective labor
force: Manual labor comes to be thought of as demeaning for the upper
classes; therefore it is socially inappropriate for all but the poorest to
work. (Mueller, 1976).
- 23 -
3. There is a relationship between the purpose and scale of the activity
and the division of labor between the sexes within the rural household
There is a distinction between activities associated with domestic use
(use value) and those which are associated with the market place (exchange
value). By and large, women are the major, if not the only, producers of
use-value activities (those needed for maintenance of familiar labor power
on a daily basis), but are increasingly isolated from activities--agricul-
tural or nonagricultural--related to exchange value.
When agriculture is the major source of livelihood, males play the more
active part in the production of cash crops; women are confined in most cases
to production of food (subsistence) crops. Women are charged with those
artisan activities that generate goods for the family's consumption (spinning,
weaving and sewing). Men predominate when the activity is a full time occu-
pation (tailoring, brickmaking, carpentry, pottery basket weaving) (Deere,
1978). When farm production is an income generating activity (rather than
only a subsistence activity) men control the marketing of produce which women
have helped to produce.
However, there are differences among strata in the degree to which labor
is divided according to the purpose of the activity. Among the poor and land-
less women are more active in production, whether for use value or exchange
value. Among the upper strata, however, labor is divided in terms of who
controls the outcome of the activity. Men control the marketing of cattle and
of milk, even though women share responsibility for care of cattle; in land-
less families women participate in the marketing of cattle, however small the
sale (Deere, 1978).
- 24 -
The following working hypotheses are suggested:
1. In rural societies where subsistence is basedon shifting cultiva-
tion women will be assigned important agricultural tasks.
2. In societies where subsistence is based on plough cultivation,
women will be assigned minor and only seasonal agricultural tasks.
3. Women will be assigned important agricultural tasks in sparsely
populated regions where subsistence is based on intensive cultiva-
4. Women will be assigned agricultural tasks equally as important as
those of men in regions of intensive cultivation of irrigated land.
5. Women will be assigned to minor agricultural tasks in societies
where cash crop cultivation has been introduced.
6. Women will be assigned to minor agricultural tasks in societies
where farm mechanization has been introduced.
B. The Relationship Between the Sexual Division of Labor within the
Household and Aspects of the Relative Status of Women
The major thrust of the enquiry in this section is the following:
Under what conditions does the sexual division of labor "generate a resource
base for women that can be translated into power in other spheres?" (Dixon,
1978). The linkage between the sexual division of labor and female power
is well stated by Young (1977):
...I wanted to analyze the sexual division of labor, meaning
by this a system of allocation of agents to positions within the
labor process on the basis of sex and a system of exclusion of
certain categories of agents from certain positions within the so-
cial organization on the basis of sex, and lastly a system of
reinforcement of the social construction of gender (emphasis
- 25 -
Do women derive power, status, and privileges by virtue of the system of
allocation within the labor process? Are they denied power, status, and
privileges, by virtue of the system of exclusion? What type of productive
roles might be linked to female power variables by virtue of their valua-
tion, the income derived (directly or indirectly) franthem, the level of
skilled involved? In the literature on women and development, the range
of indices for power is considerable. Jacquette (1978) summarizes the
way that power is defined by four different theorists.
"Developmentalists: Power is not an issue per se. Economic participa-
tion is the focus. It is a function of education, productivity,
mobility, and fertility behavior. Power is equated with choice
(mobility, freedom from traditional restraints) and would be guaran-
teed by legal equality. It increases with modernization, urbanization,
industrialization, and secularization.
Female Sphere Teorists: Male/female power differentials is a key
issue. Possible power resources available to women include kinship,
ritual, face-to-face relationships, informal influence, as well as
formal economic and political roles. Female power is declining over
time due to the undermining effect of modernization on female resources.
There is a possible zero-sum relationship between control of tradition-
al female resources and access to male "public" resources. Rejection
of formal roles as the appropriate index of power makes it unclear who
is defining the terms of the game.
Marxist Feminists: Sexual power differentials are not an appropriate
measure; the issue is powerlessness (or dependency) of both males and
females under capitalism, though sex may make a difference in the way
exploitation and oppression are carried out. Communism will eliminate
conflict over power between males and females by making the family no
longer an instrument of capitalist exploitation. Domestic and public
spheres will be merged, eliminating the differences between male and
Feminists: Male/female differences are key; the ability to deliver
equal access to power to both males and females is an important
measure of the egalitarian promises of any regime. Measures of power
tend to be public and formal; "domestic power" is discounted or
rejected on ideological grounds, because it legitimizes male domina-
- 26 -
On the question of female power and its relationship to the sexual
division of labor, several areas of enquiry suggest themselves:
1. Can female power be generated in the absence of woman's economic
2. Does equality of roles between the sexes lead to female power?
3. To what extent does the clear separation of female and male roles
lead to power for women?
4. Is the mutual dependency of sex roles a potential source of female
5. To what extent does the loss of woman's resources base in agricul-
ture and consequent loss of control over productive resources lead
to woman's loss of power and status, and therefore, to their de-
pendency on men?
6. Does the loss of woman's productive role (as a result of the loss
of their productive resource base) lead women to turn to the
domestic arenato give them power to control their environment?
What strategies are utilized in the domestic arena to gain power,
(i.e., direct control of children, control of men through sex/
children, development of entrepreneurial activities)?
Bosereup's positive evaluation of woman's traditional roles in the
productive process suggests the following proposition:
The more highly valued the economic activity performed by women, the
greater will be the woman's power within the community and the family.
Women's power (as measured by mobility, independence, etc.) is linked
to the female farming system. The gradual displacement of that power comes
- 27 -
about with the use of technology (plough cultivation, farm mechanization,
cash crops). Women's status varies with the.combined effects of the
system of cultivation and stratification variables associated with appro-
priation of land.
Shifting agricultural systems combined with low population densities
do not yield class differences based on differential land ownership.
Status concerns are not important here. Marriages are not controlled,
bride wealth is common; sexual life is freer, polygamy is frequent; women
are not secluded in the home; the conjugal unit is not emphasized in eco-
nomic life; women are assigned their own domains of familiar responsibility;
sex role specialization is de-emphasized; women have some control over
proceeds from the sale of their own crops; women are valued as workers and
mothers (Boserup, 1970; Whyte, 1978).
Plough cultivation and private ownership of land are associated with
decreasing demand for female labor, parental control over marriage choices,
emphasis on female purity, payment of dowry, female seclusion and veiling,
women's economic dependency on husband, valuation of women in their mother
role (Boserup, 1970), less domestic authority and female solidarity, and
more unequal restrictions on sex lives (Whyte, 1978).
The linkage between woman's traditional roles and power has been
challenged with the argument that women's participation in agriculture and
stock-raising economies does not necessarily lead to power (Chinas, 1973;
Moses, 1977). Thus, participation in economic production is a necessary
but not a sufficient condition of high female status; low levels of female
- 28 -
economic participation correlate with low female status, but so do high
levels of participation (Sanday, 1973).
It is argued that the contribution of women to subsistence could be
seen as indication of their subordination to less diligent men, rather
than of the value of women to society. When women have a near monopoly
on the production of subsistence goods, they may be far more dependent on
men for nonsubsistence needs than men are on women for subsistence needs
(Sanday, 1973). Huntington (1975) argues that female farming systems are
male dominated and serve male interests in that it is women's labor that
provides men with a livelihood, and leisure. Female farming systems
characterized by polygamy and recognition of the economic worth of women
only further woman's subordination. First wives exploit second wives, and
female children have important roles so that "men subjugate women and
women subjugate other women and their own female children in a system of
thoroughgoing and self-perpatuating exploitation" (Jacquette, 1978).
The key issue, then is not the degree and level of women's participa-
tion in economic activities and/or the extent to which women and men are
allocated identical tasks in the sexual division of labor which is associ-
ated with power. These factors are important with respect to female power
only when women also have equal access to the productive process (Jacquette,
There is controversy as to the importance of areas of female power
associated with domestic/relational capacities, female networks, and female
solidarity groups. The feminists discount these sources because they di-
rectly or indirectly legitimize male domination. But in traditional, and
- 29 -
more particularly in rural, societies there may be need to explore arenas
of power and influence that lie outside dominance structures and which are
not hierarchically ordered; because they are informal and private, they can
give women considerable autonomy with regard to decisions affecting their
own lives; they obviously carry the potential of influencing male decisions
In the final analysis, concepts of power and prestige take on meaning
only in the context of group interaction and women's perception of their
own power and self-esteem--hence the need to devise a way of measuring
women's general feelings of control over major decisions of their lives
The following working hypotheses are suggested:
1. In societies where women contribute much to subsistence production,
their status will be higher than in societies where they contribute
2. In societies where women contribute much to subsistence production,
their status will be much the same as it is in societies where
women contribute little.
3. Women will have lower status in societies possessing significant
private property rights (in the means of production) than in so-
cieties where there are no such rights.
4. The greater the control women have over the valuable property in
a society (inheritance rights, etc.) the higher their is their
status (Whyte, 1978).
- 30 -
5. Women's status will be higher in societies where they have sub-
stantial control over the fruits of their productive labor than
it will be in societies where they have little control (Whyte,
6. Women's status will be higher in societies where women have sub-
stantial control over the fruits of male labor than it will be
in societies where they have little control (Whyte, 1978).
7. In societies where women have substantial control over the fruits
of joint labor, their status will be higher than in societies
where they have little control (Whyte, 1978).
8. Where women's control over property (land) is restricted, women
have limited rights in the product of their labor.
9. In societies where women are organized collectively for economic
activities, their general status will be higher than in other
cultures (Whyte, 1978).
C. The Relationship Between the Sexual Division of Labor, Social Differ-
entiation, Women's Status, and Fertility Behavior
This section brings together the ideas developed in the previous dis-
cussion in order to suggest a framework of analysis and propose some research
strategies to explore the relationship between the sexual division of labor
in the household, stratification variables and aspects of the status of
women and the impact these may have either separately or combined upon repro-
I will begin the discussion by selecting aspects related to the sexual
division of labor within the household which bear an influence on fertility.
- 31 -
1. Is fertility a cause or an effect of the sexual division of labor
in the domestic unit?
With respect to the interrelationship between the labor allocation
process among the sexes within the domestic unit and fertility behavior,
two arguments can be made. Both raise important questions regarding the
flow of causality. Do women's productive undertakings determine the
degree to which women can be committed to a reproductive role, or is the
The first argument proposes that fertility is a woman's individual
response to her perceived private value of children as substitutes for
the workload allocated to her by the intrafamilial division of labor. The
second argument proposes that fertility levels are a response to differ-
ential demands for female labor in the rural sector. Such demands, rooted
in political and economic forces, exert an independent influence upon the
structuring of the sexual division of labor and upon the importance bestowed
upon women's reproductive role (Young, 1977).
Fertility as a response to woman's workload. The literature reviewed
earlier stresses the compatibility of work and family roles and the house-
hold-based maximum utilization principle as major determinants of reproduc-
tive behavior. High fertility among rural women is seen to be a result of
to the household
the perceived economic value of children/and of the nature of the work
opportunities available to rural women, most of which appear to be compat-
ible with family responsibilities.
* DaVanzo, J. and Lee, P. (1978) demonstrate through their careful work in
Malaysia that agricultural tasks involving female labor are not as compat-
tible with childcare as has always been assumed, however.
- 32 -
I would like to propose that fertility behavior can also be seen as
a conscious response reflecting the value women place on children as
substitutes for the workload assigned to them by the intrafamilial labor
allocation process. Certain patternings in the sex-based division of
labor are thus expected to be associated with a high preference for chil-
dren, because numerous children are perceived to lessen the burden of
women's tasks in household enterprises, domestic chores, and productive
This approach to fertility is somewhat different from the traditional
"economic value of children" approach in that it stresses a linkage to
woman's workload (both home and productive activities), draws upon a
maximization of utility model based on the mother (woman) as the basic
unit of analysis (as opposed to the household), (Leibenstein, 1977) and
allows for the specification of differential interests in children among
household members (Birdsall, 1975), since it grounds fertility behavior
in the woman's rational calculation of perceived benefits.
In an attempt to establish a relationship between the two variables,
the following questions need to be answered:
Under what conditions does the intrafamilial division of labor
between the sexes generate conditions favorable to woman's motiva-
tion for large families? Under what conditions does it generate
conditions favorable to woman's motivation for small families?
On the operational level the following interrelated lines of enquiry
- 33 -
-- Itemization and classification of the different activities allocated
to women and careful measurement of the extent to which specific
groups of activities are associated with specific kinds of reproduc-
tive behavior and fertility-related attitudes (of individual women).
-- Assessment of the "objective" advantages of large and/or small
families in relation to the accomplishment of the workload assigned
to women. Are there specific tasks allocated to women that might be
facilitated by the presence of numerous children? For example, in
which of the numerous activities allocated to women do children help
their mothers? in which do they substitute for their mothers? How
are women's assigned tasks carried out if there are no children in
The demand for labor and fertility behavior. The second argument
postulates a much more complex interrelationship between woman's productive
and reproductive roles. Young (1977) identifies differential labor demands,
which are created by political and economic forces, as the mechanisms behind
the way labor is divided between the sexes, how a woman's status and posi-
tion in the community is defined, and the emphasis given to women's repro-
ductive functions. Merchant capital and commercial capital are differen-
tiated in terms of the effects they each have on the limitation and/or
expansion of women's access to economic roles, which in turn affect the
extent to which women specialize in childrearing. Merchant capital is
associated with an increased demand for labor, a reallocation of labor re-
sources, the entry of many more women into the productive process, and,
- 34 -
eventually, an increase in fertility at the household level to meet the
need or an absolute increase in available manpower. Woman's relegation
to the function of reproducing the labor force diminishes her involvement
in other social (labor/productive) roles and lessens her control over
Commercial capital restructures local economies away from self-
provisioning, fosters differentiation of the local community, creates pri-
vate appropriation of land, accelerates the "freeing" of labor, and brings
about the emergence of a wage labor class. It can have one or two effects
on fertility, depending on whether labor is redundant or more labor is re-
quired. For families dependent on a wage, the amount of the wage as well
as the possibility for augmenting it by selling familial labor power pro-
vide the boundary conditions for family size. The cost of raising children
rises substantially under commercial capital, and restrictions on family
size become imperative. Women have to take on laboring work in addition
to their heavy burdens of household, when the men's wages are insufficient
for household needs. The effect may be to reduce the number of children,
although dependency on child labor is still great.
2. How do stratification factors interact with aspects of women's status
to influence fertility behavior?
One of the prerequisites for unraveling the complex relation between
the sexual division of labor and fertility is an understanding of the effect
of socioeconomic status on rural women (Hull, 1977). Earlier we discussed
the structural linkages that exist between social differentiation in the
- 35 -
community, the sexual division of labor, and the position women occupy in
the community. These three interact in a very dynamic way to affect re-
A variety of comparative work and arguments presented earlier in this
paper yield several propositions and hypotheses.
a. Women of the landless peasantry and the wage labor class, will
have a lower fertility than women of the upper and middle peasantry.
The propositional statement rests on the notion that women from
the landless and/or wage labor classes may be forced by necessity
to curtail their fertility. In an earlier discussion of the com-
bined effects of stratification factors and variables related to
women's status, we saw that very poor women are less economically
dependent on and subordinate to their menfolk than are those from
better off household (Deere, 1978; Young, 1977; Boserup, 1970).
These women work in relative equality with men; they are not
secluded in the home, are valued in the community as workers and
mothers, experience less sex role specialization in the labor
allocation process, are assigned to and actively involved in extra
domestic activities, and have some economic independence. Although
there is considerable debate as to whether all these attributes
* The negative effect of poverty on fertility (independent of women's status
and work-roles) is in part due to other factors associated with poor women
which depress reproduction, such as high frequency of marital disruption,
secondary sterility, miscarriages, still births and post partum abstinence
(Hull, 1976; Concepcion, 1974).
- 36 -
reflect higher status for women, it is nevertheless obvious that
the economic role and responsibilities that these women are called
upon to assume will build in constraints to the bearing of many
b. Women from the middle and upper peasantry will display a higher
fertility than women who are from the landless peasantry or the
wage labor class.
This notion is based upon several empirical findings. One is the
positive relationship between class and fertility (Hull, 1977).
The second is the previously discussed influence of the emergence
of private appropriation of land and consequent creation of a land-
less/wage labor class upon the role and position of women from the
upper and middle strata of the peasantry. These effects can be
summarized as follows:
i) Diminishment of women' roles in the economic productivity
process, by strictly defining what are "appropriate" activi-
ties for women;
ii) Exacerbation of woman's economic dependency on and subordina-
tion to their menfolk (through parental control of marriage,
the dowry system, etc.);
iii) Fostering of a highly sex segregated division of labor, which
relegates women to home activities and encourages seclusion
and veiling practices;
iv) Loss of woman's control over the proceeds of her productive
work and over vital input into the household;
v) Reinforcement of an ideology in which women become valued
solely because of their reproductive capacities.
In separate and/or combined form, these factors are expected to foster
high fertility levels.
- 37 -
c. Women who have lost access to and control over the productive
process will display higher fertility rates than women who have
not experienced that kind of loss.
This statement rests on findings that the shift from communal
ownership of land with usufruct rights to private ownership has
had drastic effects on women. As land passes into private
ownership, women are squeezed out of independent access to land
and to the means of production. The result in terms of women's
power and status is disastrous.
The marginalization of women as a result of this process is
associated with high fertility. Incentives for numerous children
are expected to be rooted in woman's search to gain power in the
domestic arena once she has lost her productive resource base in
the economic sphere. Among other strategies utilized by women to
gain domestic power will be the control of men (through sex and
children) and the direct control of children.
3. What is the effect of woman's domestic authority in family decision-
making upon fertility behavior?
Those who theorize a direct linkage between variables related to women's
status and fertility behavior often do not take into account the fact that
the critical element in fertility decisions and behavior is usually, though
by no means always, the husband-wife relationship. This relationship does
not exist in a vacuum, but is influenced by a couple's socioeconomic status
* A distinction is made between the landless peasantry, part of whom become
a wage labor class, and women who have lost traditional access to land as
has happened in parts of Africa.
- 38 -
and their place in the kinship systems as well as by the personal character-
istics and values each spouse brings to the union (Mason, 1971).
In this discussion I will single out the relevancy of family decision
making as one dimension of woman's status in explaining fertility behavior
among rural women. Before I proceed to identify possible linkages to be
investigated between sex-specific labor allocation patterns in the house-
hold, woman's domestic authority and fertility, I would like to critically
examine the classical hypothesis about the effect of marital relationships
upon fertility behavior. This is stated as follows:
The more egalitarian, companionate and communicative the husband-
wife relationship, the lower the fertility and the higher the
contraceptive usage and efficacy (Mason, 1971)
This hypothesis stems from the notion that greater equality between spouses
should be associated with greater ability to achieve common goals of all
kinds, including fertility goals (Mason, 1971).
However, there are several assumptions that are built into this hypo-
thesis. These must be tested in the field before we can predict whether
This paper does not address the issue of the significance of the
size and structure of the family in determining the status of women and
fertility. I make the assumption that the influence of greater internal
family hierarchy and more narrow division of labor favoring males (both of
which are associated with extended family structure) will be reflected in
the scope and degree of female influence and power in family decision making.
For a fresh approach to the continuing debate on the interrelationship be-
ween types of family structure and fertility, see Ryder, 1976. He distin-
guishes between extended/joint family structure along following lines:
relationship of individuals to the household head in terms of descent;
quantity and quality of interaction characterizing relationship between
household members; arrangements of and authority over living units and over
production and distribution of economic resources.
- 39 -
woman's domestic authority in family decision making is a necessary or
sufficient condition for changing reproductive behavior and fertility
ideals. These are:
a. The assumption that one of the main obstacles to the adoption
of contraception stems from the unwillingness or indifference
of the husband and that the dominance of the male in tradition-
al societies precludes the wife taking an equal part in decision-
making (Piepmeir and Adkins, 1973).
b. The assumption that the goal of all couples is to restrict their
fertility, rather than to expand it.
c. The assumption that the wife is committed to fertility control
and that she must engage in mutual decisionmaking with her husband
to control it.
d. The assumption that egalitarian relationships are linked to inter-
spouse communication (Mason, 1971).
e. The assumption that woman's domestic authority necessarily is the
same as mutuality of decisionmaking (Mason, 1971).
f. The assumption that woman's lack of control over fertility deci-
sion is an example of male dominance.
A surprisingly high percentage of Egyptian women said YES when asked:
"Do you agree that a woman should go ahead and use a contraceptive even if
her husband disagrees?". About 30 per cent of the total rural and urban
sample agreed. Literate wives were more likely than illiterate wives to
agree with the statement. (Dixon, 1978) The reverse is also true. A
sterilization operation on a village wife in India took place after a
decision was made by her husband and his mother. The wife was operated
upon and did not know that a tubectomy had been performed until she was
told afterwards. (Poffenberger, 1975.)
- 40 -
Furthermore, when operationalizing the concept "domestic power",
particularly in relation to family decisionmaking it is crucial to distin-
guish between family power and marital power, between family power and
decisionmaking, and between female autonomy and decisionmaking (Safilios-
Rothschild, 1970). Egalitarian relationships are not necessarily compan-
ionate relationships and inter-spouse communication is not necessarily
highest when wife and husband are equal (Mason, 1971). Dixon (1971)
cautions that family power must be studied within the extended family con-
text and suggests guidelines for cross-cultural research. Her recommenda-
tions yield insight into the position of women in the family, but these
should not necessarily be equated with woman's power or influence in re-
lationship to her husband.
Given all these cautionary notes, what do we know about woman's
influence in family decisionmaking and its relation to fertility and what
might be some of the areas of inquiry to pursue?
There is some evidence to suggest that employment outside the home
is associated with considerably greater female autonomy and influence in
family decisionmaking than is work within the home (Piepmeier and Adkins,
1973). This evidence has been found in the industrialized West and in some
urbanized modern segments of the female population in developing societies.
Greater influence of the wife in family decisionmaking and verbal
communication between husband and wife have been empirically associated with
contraceptive usage in Hong Kong (Mitchell, 1972); with adoption of family
planning and desire for lower family size in the Phillipines (Liu, 1970;
Goldberg, 1974); and with lower fertility in Brazil (Rosen and Simmons, 1971).
- 41 -
Some findings indicate that women with greater economic independence
are better able to control their fertility because of greater autonomy
and influence in family decisionmaking. However, the proposition does not
appear to hold in most parts of the developing world, not among the poor
and probably not in rural areas, because of the intervention of cultural
forces which depress the material resource effect of the employed wife.
(Mukherjee, 1974; Oppong, 1970; Salaff, 1976).
In pursuing the relevance of the decisionmaking variable upon fer-
tility behavior in the context of the rural population we are discussing,
two distinct lines of enquiry need to be undertaken. The first is directed
toward discovering whether or not a relationship can be traced between
specific labor allocation patterns and aspects of female status and female
influence in family decisionmaking. The second is whether or not the fact
that a woman may have influence or power in family decisionmaking is a
sufficient condition for changing her fertility behavior.
In the first instance we are interested in knowing whether the designa-
tion of certain tasks in the sexual division of labor bestows a greater power
to women than other tasks, and whether this increased power also gives women
greater influence with respect to decisions concerning reproductive behavior.
Secondly, since we expect that segregated role relationships in the division
of labor will be reflected in segregated role relationships in other aspects
of a woman's life, we also need to know how these two levels interact to
influence the power woman have in family decisionmaking.
*Mukherjee finds no significant correlation between women's employment status
and their role in household decisionmaking in three states in India. Of the
150 unskilled women laborers on nine major construction sites in Delhi, almost
all of whom earned as much income as their husbands, only 8 per cent stated
that they participated in decisions regarding education and marriage of their
children, selection of jobs, etc. (Mukherjee, 1974)
- 42 -
The following working hypotheses are suggested, as guidelines to
explore some of the linkages between these variables:
1. Differential patterns of labor allocation between the sexes
are associated with greater or lesser participation of the woman
in family decision making.
2. Women who perform activities of economic value to the household
will have greater power in family decisionmaking than those who
do not performan such activities.
3. Women have greater power in family decisionmaking in societies
where there is little differentiation in sex roles with respect to
the division of labor.
4. Women have little power in family decisionmaking in societies
where there is strict sex segregation principle in the division of
labor within the household.
5. In societies where strict segregation of sex roles exist, women will
have higher incentives for fertility than in societies where role
differentiation between the sexes is deemphasized.
6. The greater the influence or power of women in the family decision-
making process, the greater their sense of power and control over
7. Work that produces income over which women have some control will
be associated with women's greater influence or power in family
decisionmaking--in particular, in decisions related to fertility.
Some recapitulation and integration of the arguments presented are
in order. Rather than accept the sexual division of labor in the rural
household as a given, I began my discussion with an analysis of some of
the determinants of the labor allocation process between the sexes because
of the need to understand the structural context in which intrafamilial
decisions regarding the work women are to perform take place. This dis-
cussion disclosed the crucial role played by social differentiation pro-
cesses within the rural community, particularly those which stem from
private appropriation of land, in simultaneously acting upon the labor
allocation process and upon aspects related to woman's institutional
position in the social structure.
My final discussion suggests clearly that there is no causal
sequence through which the sexual division of labor and/or different
aspects of the role and status of women can separately influence fertility
behavior. All interact in a dynamic way with stratification variables
to structure requirements and constraints related to reproductive behavior.
I have suggested consideration of certain relationships between the
sexual division of labor and fertility, and between certain aspects related
to woman's power and fertility, in an endeavour to begin to single out
some central areas of enquiry that might be pursued at both the macro and
micro levels of analyses before an actual model might be constructed.
One of these treats fertility as a woman's direct response to the sex-
based labor allocation process; the other sees a causal flow between
sex-specific demands for labor (emerging from economic and political
forces), the sexual division of labor and fertility levels. With respect
to aspects of woman's position I have singled out domestic power as one
variable and examined critically the relevancy it bears upon a clearer
understanding of the status-fertility relationship in developing
- 43 -
III. DEVELOPMENT OF A RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
I strongly advocate the need for a research methodology that will
combine both the micro and the macro levels of analysis. My specific
recommendation for investigating some of the interrelationships that have
been suggested in this paper between the sexual division of labor, women's
role and status, and fertility behavior is an inductive method grounded in
a highly individualized subjective process that can be developed to yield
research techniques appropriate for the collection of data on an aggregate
level.* This can be done in four basic steps outlined as follows:
1. Participant Observation in which the Principal Investigator will hold
general, non directed discussions both with groups of rural women and men.
The purpose will be to ascertain the major concerns of the people as volun-
tarily expressed; to determine if previously identified areas of interest
sufficiently cover the pertinent aspects of life in the area; to open new
areas of inquiry if they do not; and to probe of crucial qualitative and
2. An Exploratory Study can be devised on the basis of the information
obtained during the Participant Observation phase. Through open ended, but
directed discussions, the exploratory study can probe more fully potential
areas of sensitivity, and reach tentative conclusions regarding appropriate
methods of data collection.
SThis research methodology was developed in the field in Kenya by the
author, D. Reynolds, Field Anthropologist, and Coralie Turbitt, Project
Director, for a collection of data on the economic and social roles of
Pokot women in the West Pokot district in Kenya. The objective was to
identify questions which will elicit data pertinent to an understanding of
the possible differential impact of proposed development programs on men
and women in that region. Refer to: "A Preliminary Study in Three Coun-
tries: Kenya, Indonesia and Nicaragua". Washington, D.C. WID/AID otr-G-
3. A Focussed (in-depth) Interview can be developed on the basis of the
Exploratory Study, which would define more precisely relevant questions
and appropriate techniques for obtaining needed data. This phase will re-
quire considerable interaction between the interviewer and the respondents
with the interviewer directing the conversation along the lines indicated
by the Exploratory Study.
4. A Structured Interview can then be developed from the information
obtained in the Focussed Interview. The advantage of the structured inter-
view is that it allows for the combination of both closed and open-ended
types of questioning. Areas of inquiry which are too complex to be dealt
with on a purely quantitative basis can be successfully incorporated at
this stage. After pre-testing, the structured interviews can be applied
to a stratified sample of households in the rural community selected.
IV. SELECTED AREAS OF ENQUIRY1
In what follows, I have listed a number of questions which should
receive special attention in the field. They pertain to three selected
areas of enquiry relevant in particular to the analysis of the interrela-
tionship between women's productive roles (as per the sexual division of
labor within the household) and aspects related to status and position.
Most of the questions listed bear direct relevance to some of the proposi-
tional statements and hypothesis suggested in the discussion.
1 Most of these questions were identified by the author, D. Reynolds and
Coralie Turbitt in the construction of a research design to study the social
and economic roles of men and women in the West Pokot district, in Kenya.
Refer to: A Preliminary Study in Three Countries: Kenya, Indonesia and
Nicaragua". Washington, D.C. WID/AID-otr-G-1477. 1978.
- 45 -
Obviously, the substance and form of these questions are intended to
be suggestive and in no way cover the entire range of inquiry and probing
that has to be pursued in the field. The three areas of enquiry are the
1. Identification of productive activities and services: division
of labor decision making, allocation of responsibility, etc.
2. Male and Female Participation in the Domestic and Public Spheres
3. Women and Men's Perception and Attitudes toward their socio-eco-
A. Identification of Major Activities and Services
1. How differentiated is the economy in the study area--i.e., to
what extent are the households primarily pastoral, mixed agricul-
tural/pastoral, or predominantly agricultural? Is there a correla-
tion between economic type and type of family structure--i.e.,
monogamous or polygamous households?
2. Which activities are the most significant economically and socially
--i.e., livestock raising, agricultural production, handicraft manu-
facture, trade, etc.? Does the importance of the activity vary
among the three economic types?
3. What are the most significant household services? Does the rela-
tive significance of these services differ among the three economic
4. What are the primary discrete operations involved in carrying out
each of the major productive activities and services over a year's
cycle? Particularly in regard to:
- 46 -
---agricultural production, processing, storage, and
---health. nutrition, socialization of children.
Are all of these activities characteristic of each economic type?
5. Who controls basic resources--e.g., rights in land, livestock, seed,
implements? Who controls production, manages the farm, allocates
farm products, and controls stored foods? Who can/cannot own these
resources? If women can and do own such resources, under what
circumstances? What is the state of land adjudication in the area?
Who can rent land, engage in livestock loan arrangements?
6. What proportion of the land used by a specific household is allo-
cated for grazing, cash crops, food crops, etc.? Are certain crops
controlled by a particular sex? If so, are they grown together or
separately? Are certain species of animals or individual animals
controlled by a particular sex? If so, are they herded together or
7. To what extent has agricultural production or the rearing of live-
stock been commercialized? Have men and women responded differently
to this commercialization?
8. Are improved seeds, fertilizer, and other farm inputs available for
cash or food crops? If so, to whom? Are cattle dips, grade bulls,
artificial insemination services, veterinary care, etc. available?
If so, to whom?
- 47 -
9. What changes are there in labor allocation related to out-migra-
tion, introduction of cash crops, etc? Do both men and women
sell their labor? What percentage of family labor is diverted to
wage labor? What percentage of family labor is hired? Is there
variation over the year? Are the barriers to the full participa-
tion of either sex in wage employment? If so, what are they?
10. Are there geographical divisions by sex--e.g., does only one sex
travel to urban areas? If so, how do those who stay in the local
community utilize urban resources--e.g., links through kin, neigh-
bors, or friends?
11. What changes have occurred over time in the study area with res-
pect to the percentage of economic types and family structure;
the relative economic and social significance of productive activi-
ties and services, land utilization patterns, the availability and
use of new techniques and inputs, and control over basic resources
and labor allocation within the household. How does marriage, di-
vorce, or residence in a monogamous as compared to a polygamous
household affect the above?
B. Division of Labor with Respect to Productive Tasks and Services
1. Who provides the primary labor for each task and service previously
identified (age, sex, relationship to household head, hired labor)?
Who assists? Which tasks are defined as male or female? Which are
not sex-typed? Do both sexes occasionally/regularly do work prima-
rily defined as more appropriate to the other sex? To what degree?
Under what circumstances? Is this changing? Do men and women
- 48 -
work on the same tasks? If so, together or separately? When?
Do they use the same techniques?
2. What is the effect of labor migration on the division of labor,
particularly vis-a-vis women?
3. Who reaps the benefits either directly or indirectly from each
task? Who suffers from the failure of each task?
4. Do men have control over their agricultural production, the pro-
ceeds of their work? Do women?
5. What influence does family structure have on the division of tasks
and the control that men and women have over the products of their
6. How much of the family income do men provide; how much do women
provide? Does this reflect the control that men and women have
over their individual earnings/contributions or over family earn-
ings in general?
7. How have these patterns changed over time?
8. What is the contribution of women relative to men for each type of
subsistence activity; to what degree is it solely male subsistence
activity... to what degree female subsistence activity? *
9. What is the extent and degree of sex role segregation in all eco-
nomic activities in which both men and women are involved? (sharp
segregation, situation-specific segregation; little or no segrega-
* Refer to Whyte, 1978.
- 49 -
10. Who controls the disposal and use of the fruits of the labor done
only by men? Do men have virtually total say? Do men have pre-
dominant say? Do men and women have equal so? Do women have the
predominant or total say? *
11. Who controls the disposal and use of the fruits of the joint labor
of men and women? *
12. Who controls the disposal and use of the fruits of the labor done
only by women? *
13. Which of the activities engaged in by men and women provide cash
income? How much does each separate activity provide? Is money
considered the personal property of the woman, or does it become
part of the household income (Dixon, 1978).
C. Decision Making Related to Productive Tasks and the Provision of
1. In regard to productive tasks and services noted above: who decides
what gets done? Who does it? When it gets done? How it gets done?
Who determines priorities?
2. Who makes decisions concerning land usage, animal husbandry, use of
stored foods, distribution of food, relocation of the family, use
of modern inputs, etc.? (N.B. Do male and female conceptions/
versions of the above differ from one another?)
3. Since the earning of income may be independent of the power to
allocate it, who allocates income from what sources, for what pur-
poses, or for whom--i.e., does the source of the income determine
who makes the decisions? If the household income increases, who
* Refer to Whyte, 1978.
- 50 -
makes decisions regarding the increased amount? If both sexes do,
what do men/women choose to do with extra income? What role do
kinship obligations play in decisions regarding income allocation?
4. To what extent are decisions based on habit as opposed to actual
discussion with a conscious decision made? Are decisions reached
by a particular individual or jointly? To what extent does the
prevalence of a particular sex in decision making vary by crop,
species of livestock, etc.? To what extent is the primary decision-
maker determined by structural factors--e.g., location of the house-
hold vis-a-vis kin, presence of husband, age and sex of household
members, women's access to cash, labor migration patterns, etc.?
Are decision-making patterns static or flexible? What does this
mean to change in the division of labor and performance of produc-
tive tasks and services? (N.B. Is it important to distinguish
between the actual day to day basis upon which decisions related to
productive tasks and services are made and the normative basis
which may rationalize the behavior?).
5. Have these patterns changed over time? If so, how?
D. Allocation of Responsibility for Productive Tasks and the Provision
1. Within the household, who has the responsibility for the comple-
tion of productive tasks and the provision of services? Who takes
on the responsibility in the absence of that person? To what
extent do those held responsible for a task participate in the
decision making related to the task or in the actual labor required
- 51 -
2. Which family member (age, sex) is responsible for providing or
expending resources for the following:
---food, clothing, education, utensils, tools, furnishings,
care of relatives, taxes, etc.
3. Which family member has the greatest responsibility for:
---health, nutrition, socialization of children, main-
tenance of relationship with the extended family and
the neighborhood, mate selection for the children,
family budget planning, etc.
4. What is the effect of variation in economic type or family
structure on these patterns?
5. What is the effect of labor migration on the division of respon-
sibility within the household?
6. Have these patterns changed over time? In what ways?
7. What are the ways on which women are currently contributing to
support of their families through money income, or shareof the
crops that they harvest?
E. Use of Market Systems
1. What sort of marketing outlets are available? How frequently are
markets held? Where are the markets held? What is bought/sold/
2. Who participates in the market system? How accessible is the
market to men and women? Are there separate spheres for each
sex? To what extent do men/women engage in trade? Is it local or
long-distance? Large-scale or petty? What can/do men and women
buy/sell/trade? Are spouses consulted regarding the marketing
of particular goods or the use of particular strategies?
- 52 -
3. What functions does the market perform in economic and socio-
cultural terms? How do such functions differ for men and
women--e.g., to what extent does the market system serve as a
communication network for either sex?
4. What are the constraints on market strategies? Are they different
for women than for men?
F. Male and Female Participation in the Domestic and Public Spheres of
1. Are women and men equal participants in the domestic sphere?
Does the degree of participation vary with changes in the male/
female life cycle, with stages in the developmental cycle of the
household, with economic type and/or family structure?
---is marriage necessary for the attainment of full adult
status for both sexes? Can women/men have legitimate
children without a spouse? Is there an exchange of cash
or goods between the couple's families prior to marriage?
Who gives to whom? What goods are exchanged? Are these
goods reserved exclusively for marital exchanges or are
they a general part of the exchange system? Who can
obtain a divorce? For what reasons? Can divorced or
widowed persons of both sexes remarry?
---what rules govern male/female sexuality? Is there a
difference in the rights, obligations, possibilities, or
expectations of the sexes? What sorts of sexual expression
is acceptable for each sex? Is the wife viewed as a private
- 53 -
reproducer for the husband--i.e., is there adultery
compensation for men, but not for women? Can men commit
adultery? Are there menstrual or pregnancy restrictions
for either men or women? What value is placed on fertility
for men, for women? on pre-marital chastity for men, for
---what are the wife's/husband rights in the marital estate
with divorce or the death of the spouse? Who keeps the
children? Who inherits productive resources, household
utensils and furnishing, etc.?
---how is authority over domestic affairs distributed? What
strategies do men/women employ to obtain their ends--e.g.,
make decisions, influence those who make decisions, or
circumvent the domestic power structure (e.g., by refusing
to work, marry, etc.)? Do men acknowledge women's author-
ity and vice versa?
---is there a status hierarchy within or between the sexes in
a household? How is it structured? What mechanisms func-
tion to strengthen solidarity within or between the sexes in
the household? What mechanisms function to weaken solidar-
ity? For example, are there marriage or residence rules
which preclude the possibility of kinswomen marrying into
the same household? Do co-wives band together against
their husband or must they intrigue against one another to
obtain a favorable situation?
- 54 -
2. Are women and men equal participants in the public sphere--i.e.,
are both sexes considered social adults or social equals outside
of the household? Does this vary with changes in the male/female
life cycle or with stages in the household developmental cycle?
Does it vary with economic type or family structure?
a. What factors promote extra-domestic cooperation and common
interest or conflict and competition between the members of
a particular sex? between the sexes?
---are there mutual aid relationships which involve both
sexes? What functions do these groups perform? What is
the criteria for membership? Are there status hierarchies?
Of what kind?
---what accounts for conflict and competition between the
sexes? To what degree are the sexes kept physically or
socially separate as a result of residence patterns,
socializing patterns, sexual division of labor, etc.?
---are there mutual aid or solidarity relationships which are
restricted to a single sex--e.g., collective labor, par-
ticipation in certain rituals, help with extra-marital
sexual affairs, etc.? What is the degree of sexual soli-
darity displayed by women compared to that of men? What
functions do these single sex groups perform? What is the
criteria for membership? Are there status hierarchies?
What kinds? If there are women's mutual aid groups, do
they function in an organized way to represent or protect
- 55 -
the economic and political interests of women as women?
Are they effective? Do men recognize their existence,
---what accounts for conflict and competition between the
members of a single sex? What are mechanisms which weaken
sexual solidarity--i.e., what is the degree of physical
and social separation within a sex as a result of residence
patterns, division of labor, etc.?
b. What sorts of extra-domestic socializing opportunities exist
for each sex and how does this affect their knowledge of and
participation in the broader society?
---are there restrictions on access to certain geographical
areas, appropriate times for travel, or the propriety of
visiting certain categories of people? If so, how does
this vary by sex?
---what is the local level of information with respect to
national and local level politics, agricultural and family
health possibilities, the availability of training oppor-
tunities, licensing requirements for trade, etc.? Does
the level of knowledge vary by sex? Do both/either sex
aspire to this information?
---what kinds of informal and formal information networks
exist? How is news injected and extracted? How do commu-
nication networks vary between the sexes? What kinds of
- 56 -
news travels through which systems? What is the extent
of interchange between male and female networks?
c. What is the participation of each sex in the extra-domestic
authority structure--i.e., to what extent do men/women enter
into the decision making arenas of society?
---can both women and men express opinions through regular,
official channels and thereby influence policy affecting
people beyond the domestic unit? How? In what spheres?
Is this official representation of a token nature?
---do men and women hold socially significant religious or
political offices--i.e., do women provide extra-domestic
mediation with the supernatural, convene courts which try
---do men or women exert extra-domestic influence which is
not channeled through official avenues? If so, in what
d. What is the status of both sexes vis-a-vis extra-domestic
legal proceedings--i.e., are both sexes held responsible for
their actions and can both press their legal rights without
the need of a guardian of a particular sex?
---to what degree do the sexes take their grievances to an
official court? Is a particular sex usually the defendant?
---what roles do each sex play within the court context?
What grievances are pressed by males? by females?
- 57 -
e. What opportunity does each sex have to acquire and allocate
prestige and wealth beyond the domestic unit?
---who can inherit property of some economic value? Only
males or males except in unusual cases? both males have
preference? roughly equal inheritance rights; female pre-
ference or exclusive female rights; no such property.
---to what extent are property rights distinguished from
control over results of labor of men and women?
---what are prestige symbols/objects in the community? What
sorts of transactions are possible with prestige items
--i.e., how can they be translated into wealth or power?
Do both sexes have equal access to these items? Do the
symbols/objects vary by sex? How? Why?
---do the products of women have a recognized value within
the community but beyond the domestic unit? in external
markets? What is the ability of women to allocate these
products beyond the domestic unit? of men?
f. What is the extra-domestic structure of kinship relations and
how do men/women function in this system?
---what is the attitude of men and women toward kinship obli-
gations for extended family members? Under what circum-
stances do male kin ties supercede female? vice versa?
Are there times when one sex plays a kin role generally
considered more appropriate to the other sex-?
- 58 -
---under what circumstances do household units break up? How
do realignments develop? What are acceptable grounds for
divorce for men? for women? What are the costs/benefits
to each sex of divorce? Who keeps the children? How is
household property divided? What are the options of each
sex regarding remarriage, residence, etc.?
---how is extramarital sex perceived? Are the advantages,
disadvantages, repercussions different for men? for women?
Is it ever acceptable for either sex? Under what circum-
---is marriage part of the system of stratification? Can
women be accrued by amassing wealth? Can wealth be achieved
through the allocation of women? Do women marry or divorce
to achieve status mobility?
G. Existence of Organized Women's Groups
1. Did organized women's groups exist indigenously? If so, what
functions did they perform? How cohesive and permanent were they?
How influential were they in introducing new ideas, organizing
large groups of women, etc.?
2. Do organized women's groups exist today? If so, what functions do
they perform? What is their relationship to indigenous women's
groups? How cohesive and permanent are they? How influential in
introducing new ideas, organizing large groups of women, etc.?
- 59 -
H. Women's and Men's Perceptions and Attitudes Toward their Socioeconomic
1. Perception and Interpretation of the Content of Female and Male
a. What is the attitude of men and women toward the sexual divi-
sion of labor, patterns of decisionmaking, and the assumption
of responsibility with respect to productive tasks and services?
toward the allocation of financial and social responsibility
within the household? toward differential access to the rural
infrastructure and institutionalized services? Specifically.
---what are male and female attitudes toward the sexual divi-
sion of labor? How do they explain the association of cer-
tain tasks with a particular sex? Explanations of non-sex
typed tasks? How does each sex feel about the tasks assigned
to them and to the opposite sex? How are tasks ranked from
most to least desirable by the sexes? Why? What are men's
and women's attitudes toward the interchangeability of pro-
ductive tasks and services? Under what circumstances, if any,
can/do males take on female tasks and vice versa? Does this
vary with economic type or family structure?
---how do men and women feel about decisionmaking patterns
related to productive tasks and services? Do both sexes agree
on areas of decisionmaking appropriate to their sex? Why
should decisions be made in this particular way? How satis-
factory are these divisions to each sex? What are men's and
- 60 -
women's attitudes toward the interchangeability of areas
of decisionmaking defined by sex? Under what circumstances,
if any, can/do males take over female areas of decision-
making, and vice versa? Does this vary with economic type
or family structure?
---how do men and women perceive the allocation of responsi-
bility for productive tasks and services? Do both sexes
agree on areas of responsibility? Why is responsibility
allocated in this manner? What are men's and women's atti-
tudes toward the interchangeability of these areas as
defined by sex? Under what circumstances, if any can/do
males adopt the responsibilities generally assigned to
females, vice versa? Does this vary with economic type or
---how do males and females perceive the allocation of finan-
cial and social responsibility within the househol--e.g.,
the control exerted over individual or household earnings,
financial obligations toward extended family members, etc.?
How do they explain the particular patterns that exist?
What are attitudes toward the interchangeability of these
financial and social responsibilities? Under what circum-
stances, if any, could/would one sex undertake the responsi-
bilities assigned to the other? Do these patterns vary
with economic type or family structure?
- 61 -
---how do women and men perceive their relationship to basic
productive resources and their access to institutionalized
services and the rural infrastructure? Are these perceived
relationships satisfactory to both sexes? Does this vary
with the economic type or family structure?
2. How flexible are perceptions of appropriate behavior by sex?
---do men and women have different degrees of leeway for innova-
tive or deviant behavior? If so, in what ways and in what
spheres? How are these deviations explained or rationalized?
---within the rural community what are male and female attitudes
toward people who deviate from expected patterns? Are some
deviations acceptable? In which spheres, by whom?
---in areas interpenetrated by foreign peoples, what are the
attitudes of local women and men toward the sexual distinc-
tions of other groups? What explanations are offered for the
variation? How is the variation evaluated?
I. Conceptions of Personal Autonomy
1. To what extent do men and women believe that they control their own
lives? In what areas do they feel they exert the most control? the
2. How do women evaluate the degree of control they have vis-a-vis men,
and vice versa? Do they see themselves as more vulnerable to or
dependent upon the opposite sex in one sphere than another? Do men
and women exert equal control in some spheres with control exerted
- 62 -
in different manners? How is this explained? Is it recognized
as satisfactory by both sexes?
J. Perceptions of Change
1. Do both sexes perceive changes occurring in their immediate surround-
ings? If so, in what spheres--e.g., family relationships, group
cohesion, material well-being, authority relationships, quality of
the environment, etc.? What specific changes are recognized?
What is their reaction to perceived changes? What changes, if any,
would they like to see occur? Which sex is considered most active-
ly involved in participation in the change process? Who is believed
to benefit/suffer from the changes?
2. Does either sex see certain changes as encroachments upon their self-
definitions as male or female? If so, is the male-defined area of
life expanding or contracting? the female area? If so, in what
ways? Is this viewed as a positive or negative occurence by either
3. How do women and men believe that trends of change will affect their
children's lives? What are their aspirations for their children?
What do they actually think will happen to their children in the
- 63 -
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