WOMEN AND INCOME IN THE THIRD WORLD:
IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY
Daisy Hilse Dwyer
Working Paper No. 18
This is an essay reviewing the data and arguments presented at the
Population Council sponsored seminar entitled Women, Income and Policy, held
March 15-16, 1983. Two issues received major attention at the seminar: (1)
the usefulness of existing models of allocating household services was debated
and (2) the availability or lack of data on the gender aspects of income pool-
ing, pending priorities, and accumulation strategies was delineated for poor
Third World households.
Daisy Hilse Dwyer, Ph.D., was one of two organizers of the Population
Council seminar entitled Women, Income and Policy and the sole organizer of a
seminar on Women and Income Control in the Third World held at Columbia
University, October 7-9, 1982. She is an expert on comparative women's issues
with extensive field experience in the Middle East. Professor Dwyer has
taught anthropology at Columbia University and comparative legal systems at
the Columbia School of Law. She is currently undertaking funded research as a
Visiting Scholar at the Middle East Institute at the Columbia University
School of International Affairs.
POPULATION COUNCIL LIBRARY CATALOGUING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Dwyer, Daisy Hilse
Women and income in the Third World: implications for
policy / Daisy Hilse Dwyer. New York : The Population
Council, June 1983.
p. -- (Population Council. International Programs.
Working paper; 18)
1. Underdeveloped areas Women's employment. 2. Women -
Underdeveloped areas. I. Title. II. Series.
HB881.P62 no.18 [HD6223] 8.83.hnz
The starting point of the Seminar on Women, Income and Policy held at the
Population Council on March 15 and 16, 1983, was that two prevalent assump-
tions held by development planners should come under review: 1) that men and
women invariably pool income to equal degrees and 2) that they share common
expenditure priorities. Participants at the seminar were individuals whose
research or policy experience put them in a position to help construct the
'record on gender and income' to date and define areas for fruitful inquiry.
Two issues received special attention at the Seminar: (1) the usefulness of
existing models of allocating household resources was debated and (2) the
availability or lack of availability of data on the gender aspects of income
pooling, spending priorities, and accumulation strategies was delineated for
poor Third World households.
Through all this, there was a search for policy implications: what Daisy
Dwyer, who is author of the following review essay and who served as one of
two organizers of the meeting, has termed 'saliency'. The Council's interest
in hosting the Seminar and sponsoring follow-up work is its assessment that a
better knowledge of household income flows will have salience for population
studies along several lines: How 'corporate' are households? Do women and
men have distinctive and possibly opposing strategies for resource distribu-
tion in the family? What mechanisms do men and women use to bargain with each
other, to reduce short-term and long-term risk, and to increase overall house-
hold welfare? Can differential control of income resources by men and women
help explain differential investments in children, and variations in child
Because data on many of these subjects are still limited, definitive
answers are not presently available to this set of questions. The Seminar in-
terchange, however, has suggested that studies of men's and women's income
strategies and a closer examination of the household model that is basic to
development practice and theory are proper points for beginning the search for
answers over the long term. The Seminar discussion indicated that both
researchers and policy makers felt that such studies held promise and that in-
vestment was strongly warranted. They also acknowledged the cost and method-
ological difficulties this work would entail.
The following essay presents the arguments that were put forward in the
Seminar presentations and contextualizes them with respect to the overall data
base. It was a difficult task, made more so by the fact that papers, in the
formal sense, are still in preparation. Much effort has also been put into
endnotes to provide documentation and expand arguments.
The search for relevant, methodological approaches and findings continues
here at the Council. We welcome comments, critiques, references to useful
literature, and descriptions of related research planned or underway.
Finally, we gratefully acknowledge the support provided by the
Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation to individual participants so
they might attend.
WOMEN AND INCOME IN THE THIRD WORLD: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. Gender, Poverty and Income Dynamics 2
II. Saliency and Impacts 9
III. Risk as a Factor in Gender-Differentiated Income Handling 14
IV. Intervention Points and Policy 16
V. Conclusion 20
WOMEN AND INCOME IN THE THIRD WORLD: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY
In an age in which poverty defines life for an ever-growing portion of
the world's population and in which development allocations are increasingly
circumscribed, the critical question is how best to channel resources to the
poor to alleviate hunger, disease, and the overall denigrations that are
associated with poverty. The question signals the need for a close and com-
prehensive analysis of the income of poverty-level families and the dynamics
of income-handling. On the one hand, it calls for a consideration of the
various pathways into households through which income reaches the hands of the
poor. On the other hand, it calls for an understanding of who decides alloca-
tions and the purposes for which income is allocated. To the degree that male
and female household members in diverse societies earn differential incomes
and exhibit different needs and priorities, these analytic tasks call for a
gender-differentiated analyses. By extension, the search for solutions to the
poor's survival dilemmas requires appraisals and proposals that are gender-
The critical need to identify and describe the gender factor in income
dynamics is being increasingly demonstrated through data that are being com-
piled in diverse parts of the Third World. These data point to the widespread
incidence of gender differentials in how income is generated and used for
household maintenance as well as reveal the considerable variability that
exists in decision-making by culture, history and class. These data also
point to the fact that the distinctive income behaviors that have been evinced
on the female side are of major significance to the viability of poor
families: while the association of women and poverty has all too often been
stressed through analysis of the 'female-headed household', a focus on women
as economic actors has demonstrated their substantial responsibility, energy
and creativity in the face of external imposed constraints.
Much of the recent theorizing and data collecting on women's economic
roles have concerned women and work,1 particularly but not exclusively for
poverty contexts. The topic of women and income, especially in the sense of
income transactions between the sexes, calls for comparable attention. In
addition, 'income and gender' data requires precise integration with findings
that have been generated through the use of work-focused frameworks.
Expanded attention on 'gender and income' issues is both logical and
appropriate to the current intensive focus on the survival strategies of poor
households. Poor women, much like men, do not work merely to work but rather
to secure incomes for use by themselves or for allocation by others. For
them, control over income -- be it earned, inherited, or otherwise transferred
-- is an immediate gateway to power. By extension, lack of control over in-
come remains a primary basis for women's variable but continuing subordination
as well as the heightened vulnerability of many poor households.
I. GENDER, POVERTY AND INCOME DYNAMICS
A growing body of data indicates that the models that many development
theorists espouse of how men and women operate vis-a-vis resources in poor
households must come under review. In particular, the assumption that is
basic to much of economic theorizing, and which is most explicitly elaborated
in the new household economics decision-making model2--that households work
together along jointly-held groundplans toward commonly held goals for the
benefit of all--must be closely reappraised from a gender perspective.3 So,
too, must the overarching premises of such a framework be reexamined, most
particularly the tendency to separate the gender dynamics of micro-economic
behavior from gender differentiations in asset distribution.
Data on gender economics from a large number of Third World societies
have called the component parts of the new household economics decision-making
model into question. The revised formulations that grow out of those data
(1) Women's income is typically essential to survival in poor households.
(2) In many societies male and female household members do not pool their in-
comes or they pool incompletely.
(3) Intra-household allocational obligations are often culturally distin-
guished by gender and vary substantially from society to society.
(4) Beyond the possibility of different allocational obligations, actual al-
locations as well as stated priorities often differ by gender.
(5) Income allocations and obligations often extend beyond the household in
such fashion as to occasion different gender-associated priorities.
(6) Men's and women's contributions to household tend to be differentially
valued by others and self, a circumstance which predisposes many house-
holds to conflict rather than concordance over decisionmaking.
(1) Women's income is typically essential to survival in poor households.
The fact that most male wage laborers are paid sub-subsistence wages has
been amply argued and demonstrated for the Third World,4 much as has the low
level of informal sector returns for both men and women.5 In the face of
these detriments, women income makes up for the shortfall in many poor male-
present households. In still other male-present households, in which males
are incapacitated or work insufficient hours, women's income predominates over
men's. So, too, is women's income essential in many male-migrant households
in which remittances are unreliable.6 Additionally, women's income also
constitutes the central survival resource for an estimated 17-28% of the
world's sum-total households, the percentage of households that are for
census purposes classified as female-headed because they are male-absent.7
In-depth investigations have classified 40% or more of the households in some
areas (e.g. districts in Southern Africa and the Caribbean) as female-
Research that reaches down to the actual household level substantiates
the cruciality of women's income contributions. As Mencher9 has demonstrat-
ed for predominantly landless households in a sample set of villages in the
Kerala and Tamil Nadu regions of India, women work long, hard hours and con-
tribute all they can of their incomes for household maintenance in contexts of
substantial poverty. Moreover according to her data, women earn more than men
in a goodly number of poor two-adult households. Indeed, in the sense that
these women withhold almost no income for themselves, contrary to the male
pattern, they can be considered as taking household maintenance as an ultimate
(2) In many societies male and female household members do not pool their
incomes or they pool incompletely.
Development planners frequently presume that the pooling of resources by
spouses is the existing budgetary configuration in the Third World.10 In
many Third World societies, however, non-pooling of spousal incomes is the
cultural norm.11 In an additional set of societies and societal subgroup-
ings, non-pooling is the predominant budgeting arrangement even when pooling
defines the stated ideal.
Yoruba case materials, as presented by Fapohunda,12 provide an elab-
orately documented instance of the culturally acknowledged non-pooling of
household resources and of the logic that underlies the non-pooling pattern.
In the Yoruba case, men and women do not contribute to a common household fund
and do not share information about their incomes with one another,13 al-
though each spouse has a sense of the financial obligations that he or she
should meet within the household. Indeed, women feel that to share income or
to disclose information about it incurs heightened risk.
Data from other parts of the world, including the United States,14
indicate that income- and information-sharing between husbands and wives
varies significantly by class, with heightened sharing becoming more prevalent
as women's relative income contribution increases. In the marriage context,
low-salaried wives are more often provided with "housekeeping money" by
husbands who are substantial earners, while husbands with less substantial in-
comes engage in a greater pooling of resources.15 Indeed, the degree to
which a culture acknowledges particular budgetary arrangements as appropriate
itself seems variable. As Roldan16 and Blumberg17 have noted, Latin
American households seem to work more closely within an acknowledged set of
budgetary alternatives, which include allocation of "housekeeping money" to
women and diverse degrees of pooling, while Indonesian households, as noted by
Papanek,18 seem to be more prone to ad hoc arrangements which differ from
household to household.
(3) Intra-household allocational obligations are often culturally distin-
guished by gender and vary substantially from society to society.
The premise that obligations are met jointly from a joint income pool can
in no way be assumed as an ideal or real behavioral pattern in Third World
households. Considerable variability also exists with regard to which sex
allocates income for particular tasks.19 In some societies, husbands are
responsible for the provision of lodgings, children's tuition, and other
educational costs. Providing income for food for children often varies as a
female, male, or joint obligation. Almost universally, however, women are
viewed as ultimately responsible for fulfilling children's food needs. More-
over, in many societies, the allocation of a portion of a poor household's in-
come and time for leisure activities is accepted by both sexes as a male pre-
rogative, while allocations for women's leisure are not.20 The implica-
tions of such allocational divisions are yet to be tested, but a logical cor-
relate is that role expectations will push males and females toward greater or
lesser involvements in meeting specific survival needs.
(4) Beyond the possibility of different allocational obligations, actual
allocations as well as stated priorities often differ by gender.
Most striking in this context are allocations that concern children's
basic survival needs. Data sets from poverty-level households point to the
fact that women in many parts of the world allocate a proportionately greater
amount of their incomes than do men to such basic needs as food, health care,
and clothing.21 In part this is in keeping with Engel's Law,22 which
asserts that larger percentages of incomes will be channeled toward basic
needs when incomes are small. Engel's Law, however, may also be so strongly
operative precisely because of mothers' striking persistence on children's
behalf.23 Relevant data also give voice to the fact that in building up
options for long-range support in contexts in which other avenues are con-
stricted, children are often women's best long-range investment.24
Data that substantiate the notion of women's greater allocational inputs
for basic needs come from diverse parts of the world.25 As Kumar26
has noted, children in South India profit nutritionally in greater proportion
as women's, rather than men's, income contributions to the household increase.
Indeed, as is indicated by one data set from the Dominican Republic, 27
female household heads sometimes allocate more income to their children than
do two-spouse pairings in households with larger total incomes. A caveat must
be registered, however, as to what income activities actually constitute 'con-
tributions'. Although the unremunerative nature of certain male-associated
income allocations (e.g., alcoholism, gambling) is clear in some cases,28
the importance of men's indirect allocations must be closely appraised. As
Peters notes,29 the men of Botswana attend to complex economic transac-
tions that involve the society's chief resource, cattle, in the course of beer
(5) Income allocations and obligations often extended beyond the household,
occasioning different gender-associated priorities.
Because attachment to blood kin overshadows marital attachment in many
societies,30 considerations of this kind can be of especial moment in
understanding the gender differentiation of household decision-making about
income. In such societies income inputs into the children of collateral kin
(e.g., brother's children) often prove to be astute investments, for they
generate political and economic benefits and potentialities of a less risk-
prone sort for offspring and self.31 In these instances the overall
investment in blood kin provides a culturally accepted route to support,
security, and resources. Similarly, the allocational priorities of males and
females often conflict in societies in which males and females have different
marital histories: most strikingly where polygyny and serial monogamy are pre-
valent cultural practices.32
(6) Men's and women's contributions to household tend to be differentially
valued by others and self, a circumstance which predisposes many households to
conflict rather than concordance over decision-making.
The undervaluation of women's labor,33 as evinced in women's general-
ly lower wages in the formal sector as well as their generally lower hourly
earnings in the domestic and/or informal sectors of their economies, tends to
make women's income contributions seems supplementary or inconsequential. The
low valuation of women's substantial unpaid labor contribution among women who
"work" as well as women who "do not work" further exacerbates these negative
Discord between males and females over household decision-making seems
partially linked to the resulting contrastive appraisals of women's contribu-
tions to their households. In certain cases, women see their smaller absolute
incomes as essential to the survival of their families and chafe at men's as-
sumption of income control on the grounds that they men earn more.34 In
other cases, women's smaller and devalued incomes provide steadier inputs
which women regard as especially crucial because they are basic to income
strategies that are more nearly geared to survival rather than mobility.35
Women's low but steady contributions allow men to seek greater absolute
returns at heightened risk in many contexts.36 The result, according to
one study of Mexican piece-workers,37 is that the question of who should
make decisions about household income emerges as a primary cause of husband-
It is important to note that the undervaluation of women's income contri-
butions is a convoluted phenomenon. This is so because women's contributions
are frequently difficult to tally, for they are often multiple, non-monetary,
and expended on the spot, as Safilios-Rothschild, Guyer and Peluso note.38
Moreover, women themselves often undervalue their income contributions to
households in the belief that men are breadwinners and that women don't
"work". Underestimation by women themselves underscores the need for precise
evaluation of women's contributions,39 especially those that are less
visible: those entailed in "home production" as well as in what Papanek terms
"family status production."40
II. SALIENCY AND IMPACTS
The existence of gender complexities in the generating and handling of
incomes implies many questions of theory. The ultimate dilemma, however, con-
cerns saliency. Gender differentiations in the income process exist in most,
if not all, societies and societal subgroups. What, however, are the
The implications of gender differentiations remain largely to be explored
but seem manifold for the quality of household or family life. Plausible
spheres of impact include: nutrition, fertility, household stability, and
overall costs to subordinated groups, most notably to women.
(1) nutrition: While data from certain societies indicate that women
might be stauncher providers of quality nutrition to children, the conditions
under which women are optimal providers remain to be detailed. So, too, must
variants in male expenditures for basic needs be examined with an end toward
discovering the conditions that result in optimality of male investments in
As Kumar's Kerala research indicates,41 the effectiveness of women's
income inputs toward children's nutrition correlates significantly but vari-
ably with a diversity of factors. According to her study, children's nutri-
tional level correlates positively with the size of mother's income, food
inputs from subsistence farming, and the quality of available family-based
childcare. Significantly, children's nutritional level does not increase in
direct proportion to increases in paternal income. Wilson's research similar-
ly notes that the children of "working" mothers have more adequate home diets
at eighteen and thirty months than same-aged children of non-working mothers
in a set of Guatamalan villages studied.42 By extension, Engle's
Guatemalan research provides a positive correlation between maternal employ-
ment and child survival.43 In effect, the efficacy of maternal (as well
as paternal) allocations for basic needs can be regarded as variable and seems
affected by: the work context (e.g., distance of the workplace from the
home), the wage (e.g., cash, in kind, reciprocal services), access to the
marketplace (e.g., which sex buys food), family structure (e.g., the avail-
ability of substitute childcare in the family), the developmental stage of
children, and the overall power structure of family and society.
(2) fertility: The implications of gender-differentiated income flows to
and through households remain to be explored regarding their relation to fer-
tility decision-making. Three lines of inquiry are indicated, however, by the
data at hand. The first reflects the fact that the relative allocational
burdens of fathers and mothers change as family size changes in many soci-
eties. The second concerns the possibility that heightened reproduction
serves as a device for minimizing risks that associate with gender/class ir-
come inequities. The third line of inquiry concerns income strategies and
decision-making about nuptiality.
As Palmer has argued regarding the first line of inquiry,44 firstborn
versus subsequently born children compound the allocational burdens of men
versus women differently in many African societies. In particular, if initial
(or overhead) outlays for family (e.g., housing) are culturally designated as
male, while incremental inputs (e.g., food, clothing) are designated as
female, high fertility places proportionately less strain upon men while dis-
proportionately increasing women's burdens. A vital by-product concerns
nutrition: children in large households will disproportionately feel the
impact of women's generally lesser earning power. Similarly research in the
Philippines indicates that whereas women's work burden (when measured as a
blend of market production and home production) increases as the number of
children increases, fathers' input into child care, food preparation and other
home production tasks varies minimally, whether there is one child or
The possibility that women use reproduction as an operant device for
minimizing the risks that gender-differentiated patterns of income generation
and asset distribution incur has been put forward, among others, by
Cain.46 According to this perspective, having children, particularly
sons, deflects the economic risks of widowhood, divorce, and desertion in con-
texts in which women's income-generating options are small and their access to
the labor market is limited by such cultural practices as seclusion. Sons not
only open the possibility of support payments to divorcees; they also gain a
male's access to father's estate and extend a woman's network of support.
Daughters, by contrast, serve as a shorter-range investment for women in
socioeconomic contexts in which, for example, women need female helpers to
ease the heavy burdens of domestic work or to assist in trade.47 To the
degree that the sex-segregation of tasks renders both sons and daughters in-
dispensible, overall fertility is likely to be heightened, as seems to occur
so strikingly in the 'fertility belt' from Morocco to Bangladesh.
The relation of income strategies to decisions for or against marriage
has been explored by a number of scholars,48 with positive and negative
fertility impacts being plausible results. On the one hand, early marriage is
indicated in many poverty contexts, for low incomes can act as an inducement
to the speedy formation of income partnerships with spouses who are earners.
Such partnerships, however, are often delayed by parents who seek to maintain
asset control.49 On the other hand, data from diverse parts of the world
(e.g., parts of China and the Caribbean) indicate that women who have devel-
oped adequate income potentials sometimes resist marriage or remarriage in an
effort to maintain control over their incomes.50
(3) household instability: Data indicate that conflicts about income
constitute a major source of household tension in many societies,51 with
many conflicts being engendered and exacerbated by the gender-differentiated
aspects of income handling. When these tensions result in or contribute to
household fragmentation, the resulting fragments often experience decreased
viability. Smaller households often cannot reap the rewards of economies of
scale, and weaker fragments often experience problems because sum-total assets
are divided unequitably at the moment of fission. In households that become
female-headed through male desertion or divorce, women's generally lesser in-
come-generating potential compounds these detriments,52 so that a dispro-
portionately large percentage of poverty-level households results.53 By
extension, when income tensions mount in households that nonetheless stay
formally in tact, one or another spouse is apt to respond by overtly or
covertly directing income increasingly outside the household.54
(5) cost to women: The manifold costs to women of gender-differentiated
income processes have been insufficiently charted in the literature on income
and household. Nonetheless the obvious consequences of such inequities cannot
be ignored. Intriguing, albeit fragmentary, data exists, for example, con-
cerning nutrition and morbidity.
As Caldwell and others have noted regarding nutrition, power hierarchies
that subordinate women to men often have their correlate in diminished food
allocations to women.55 A substantial number of societies, for example,
ordain that women sacrifice for others' nutritional benefit, and women often
endure the attendant hardships, at least when they explicitly reside with
"dominant" males.56 Food restrictions are also likely to be culturally
intensified at various points in the female life cycle (e.g., in widow-
ood).57 Strikingly, restrictions sometimes augment rather than diminish
luring pregnancy, implying a disinvestment in women of childbearing
The fact that adult women generally report more ill health than men seems
attributable in part to their longer work hours (notably longer than men's in
many settings59) and the stresses of child-bearing.60 In some cul-
ures, seclusion and the modesty complex exacerbate the incidence of female
orbidity by impeding women's access to up-to-date health care just as they
imit women's access to remunerative work. Moreover, women who head house-
holds often suffer special costs to themselves and their dependents when no
other adult is available to provide childcare on those occasions in which
women must travel to obtain health care for children or themselves.61
III. RISK AS A FACTOR IN GENDER-DIFFERENTIATED INCOME HANDLING
The factors that result in gender-differentiated income-handling are
implied in diverse forms. They are provided in the first instance in infor-
mants' reports of income strategies. As Fapohunda suggests,62 for
example, Yoruba males and females do not operate in terms of a joint utility
function. Rather, males and females acknowledge the existence of gender-
specific risks (e.g., the threat to women of polygyny; the obligations of
spouses to their own kin groups). Separate incomes and carefully guarded in-
formation about personal incomes--to wit, a non-pooling pattern--discourage
detrimental expenditures by the other sex of one's own income and allow the
allocation of personal income for maximal personal benefit. In a cultural
context63 in which women as well as men tend to be substantial income
earners, in which women believe that it is below their dignity to ask to be
supported by husbands, and in which women enjoy physical mobility such that
they can implement separate income regimes, non-pooling provides enhanced in-
In some societies, gender differences in income strategies are explicitly
voiced. In others, different strategies are operative but less visible. As
numerous scholars have documented for Bangladesh, for example, women are
dependent upon men, who are the society's chief public actors, and they are
additionally constrained by the seclusion complex. The result is that women
cannot and do not opt for a separation of incomes or for personalized budget-
ing. Rather they sometimes use semi-secret strategies within a structure of
apparent household corporateness as they attempt to offset the risks that
they, as women, particularly face: male repudiation, abandonment, polygyny,
and widowhood at an early age.64 One strategy appears to be a heightened
desire for children, especially sons, as an investment for women's long-range
security. This concern with long-range security, it is to be noted, appears
relevant for women in many cultural contexts: Mueller, for example, offers
data from six societies which indicate that between 31% and 46% of women aged
50-54 are household heads through nonmarriage, separation, divorce or widow-
Analysis in terms of risk and risk insurance reaches the causal heart of
"gender and income" research and allows the building of a more comprehensive
framework. In particular, gender and class can be unified in a paradigm of
this kind.66 Moreover, a social institutional focus permits the incorpor-
ation of data concerning marriage, divorce, and the developmental cycles of
households and families into an otherwise narrowly 'economic' framework.
In such a broadened framework, asset distribution is an essential dynam-
ic to consider along gender lines, for unequal asset distribution immediately
locates the relevant women and men in the ranks of the poor. Moreover, asset
inequities have a marked gender component in most societies, Western as well
as non-Western.67 In some cases, these inequities are legally formalized
(e.g., Islamic law accords a female heir an inheritor's half-share). In other
cases, women are normatively pressured to cede asset rights. In still other
cases, women retain ownership of assets, but men manage them, thereby gaining
greater control of the income that results.
It is to be underlined that inequality of assets is not adequately con-
sidered in the new household economics decision-making model.68 Nor, as
Krishna notes, does the model provide a proper appreciation of the negative
impact of such onerous social institutional arrangements as educational dis-
crimination, bride burning, and the denigrations of widowhood.
As is implied by the widespread incidence of: a) gender-associated asset
inequities, b) income discrimination, and c) social institutional inequality,
the utility functions of men and women are likely to differ in virtually all
parts of the world, and gender-differentiated income approaches are likely to
be near-universal as a result.
As a final point, behavioral flexibility and income-handling is to be
underscored for both sexes. When cultural and economic constraints upon women
and men shift, differences in women's and men's income strategies often come
to the fore. As Pessar's Dominican data demonstrate,69 for example,
Dominican female migrants elaborate and voice economic groundplans that are
different from those of their husbands when their households move to the
United States. In particular, women's consumer strategy is to spend their in-
comes so as to mitigate against the return home. Husbands, by contrast,
attempt to save for the purpose of returning to the Dominican Republic, where
men enjoy heightened status and where they can better invest their savings.
IV. INTERVENTION POINTS AND POLICY
Utilization of the growing data base on income and gender should result
in more sensitive policy directives. In particular, new insights for imple-
menting development policies are indicated.70 Some concern the optimali-
zation of inputs into households; others concern extra-household interven-
tions. The former reflect a clearer recognition of the complexity and vari-
ability of household organization and of gender-specific allocational priori-
ties. The latter reflects a growing understanding of the social and cultural
fabric surrounding household economic behavior.
Intra-household interventions: Abundant data indicates that households
tend not to be the monolithic entities that development planners often presume
and that households must be approached as complexly differentiated intermedi-
ary units rather than as the endpoints of existing or redirected income flows.
In particular, males and females must be differentiated both as recipients and
as allocators in project planning.
Unexpected and untoward impacts upon women are likely to be avoided as a
result. One oft-noted effect of gender-blind policies on income is the unwar-
ranted channeling of compensation for women's labor to male household heads.
In other cases technological71 and organizational (e.g., the formation of
cooperatives)72 advances have been offered to men with a view toward in-
creasing productivity in a work-sphere that is female-dominated. Reform pro-
grams that redistribute assets to male household heads in contexts in which
males and females hold separate ownership rights also need to be ex-
amined.73 Finally, loans and credit are typically extended to adult males
who are presumed to be household heads. By contrast, although adult women are
often equally or more productive than men, they are frequently required to
find a male guarantor to obtain formal consent credit.74
As these and other examples indicate, individuals rather than households
might be the optimal recipients of outlays that relate to work, with women
being more appropriate recipients when certain ends are desired. The cultural
designation of some obligations as male or as female especially points to the
appropriateness of directing allocations to males or to females differential-
ly. Furthermore, in cases in which it is determined that income that comes
into the household is likely to be spent counter-productively, allocations of
aid might better be directed to women outside the household. Women's coopera-
tives and women's informal savings unions can be regarded in such contexts as
mechanisms to "protect" income for use in meeting critical household
It is to be stressed that policies that earmark individual recipients for
aid rather than opting for household inputs are not discordant with the family
maintenance or family strengthening goals of many development planners. In
fact, they do not constitute a radical policy departure, for development allo-
cations have traditionally been channeled to individual recipients, who, how-
ever, are most often male. Rather, the more precise delineation of recipients
should reinforce and reflect many of the very differentiations that indigenous
households themselves make.
Extra-household interventions: Most simply and directly, the primary
route to ameliorating many of the problems that gender-differentiated income
processes imply involves increasing women's incomes, be they earned, in-
herited, or otherwise secured. In some cases, an appropriate mechanism is in-
creasing women's participation in the wage labor force. Because women consti-
tute a disproportionately large percentage of the "unemployed" in many
nations, employment programs in either the public or private sector offer one
plausible corrective. A program that narrowly aims at increasing women's
labor force participation, however, must be applied with caution, however, as
Krishna has noted, for women who "do not work" often work long and hard hours
in reality.76 Research on women's work has amply demonstrated that women
who enter the paid labor force thus are often doubly or triply burdened. A
more direct solution therefore lies, in increasing women's compensation for
labor performed. The proper introduction of labor saving devices for women
can also free time for remunerated work and increase the return on women's
The positive impact of increased remuneration to women has been indicated
through Kumar's and Wilson's groundbreaking nutritional research78 and
through Engle's work on child mortality.79 Increased compensation more
generally helps women to obviate agonizing tradeoffs. Regarding children's
welfare, for example, an adequate wage often offsets losses incurred through
the absence of mother's personal care.80
As is implied through the analysis of income and risk, intervention
points that concern factors other than work provide alternative routes for
ameliorating the negative impacts of women's typically lesser incomes. Many
of these involve advocacy for reform of the social institutional layer.81
If gender- and class-associated asset inequities underlie the hardships of
poor women, an ultimate recourse is the gender-sensitive reform of asset dis-
tribution through legal-political channels. Land reform programs have some-
times benefited from gender-focused restructuring along these lines. Programs
that increase women's overall access to public arenas and services -- the
labor market, the marketplace, and to health care facilities -- provide a
second kind of reform that profits from gender-sensitivity. Finally, a third
essential input concerns childcare.
For decades, the study of women and income has been subsumed under and
lost within studies of men and income or of income and family. Women's earn-
ings typically rested in the penumbra of men's presumably more substantial, if
not "family," wage. Perceived as more erratic as to when they were earned,
women's income contributions were often not adequately totaled. Earmarked
primarily for use within family and household, women's incomes were thought to
be allocated not by women but rather by male household or family heads.
Typically regarded as less secure, women's income sources were neglected as
regards their potential for investment. In sum, because of their size, form
and use, and because seemingly peripheral actors generated them, the incomes
of Third World women and, by extension, their income-handling strategies, have
typically been accorded minimal significance in the First World.
These assumptions about women's income-generating and income-allocating
activities do not tally with fact. In poverty- and near-poverty level
families virtually throughout the world, women's income is critical to family
survival. Indeed in many contexts, women are a primary locus of decision-
making, for household incomes are neither pooled nor managed jointly. More-
over, because family and household are women's special priority, women and men
seem to allocate resources differently, a phenomenon which results in intra-
household tension in many societies. In sum, women's income tends to be vital
to a large number of families, and women tend to have their own distinctive
groundplans for earning, using and accumulating it. Indeed, if the goals of
many development planners are taken as valid as regards such essentials as
meeting basic human needs, women often allocate their incomes more productive-
ly than do men.
The intra-household dialectic with regard to income remains to be de-
tailed for a diversity of societies with respect to its gender components.
When such a working data base has been established, as it has been prelimi-
narily accomplished through the research that is synthesized here, broader
impacts can be determined for children's welfare, the quality of women's and
men's lives, household viability, population dynamics and the overarching
dilemma of world poverty. Preliminary readings show that these impacts are
likely to be profound. Women generally operate with strength and responsibil-
ity in their income endeavors, but all too often operate from a position of
deep disadvantage. Repercussions extend throughout households as a result,
both in terms of the overall disabilities that arise from women's lesser
remuneration as well as the tensions that result from gender-differentiated
behaviors. Impacts redound to the class level. Women's lesser remuneration
and their lesser control over household income typically lowers the survival
potential of poor households82, ultimately reinforcing the gap between
overclass and poor.
1. The literature on women and work focuses on such issues as: the sexual
division of labor, women's work in the informal sector, women's entry
into the wage labor force, and the interface of production and reproduc-
tion. Relevant works include: Lourdes Beneria (ed): Women and Develop-
ment: The Sexual Division of Labor in Rural Societies. New York:
Praeger, 1982: Eleanore Burke Leacock (ed.): Women's Work, South Hadley,
James Bergin Publishers, 1984; and the various articles in The Labor of
Women: Work and Family (Signs 4(4), Summer 1979); and Women in Latin
America (Signs 5(1), Autumn 1979).
2. Over the past two decades certain economists (e.g., T. Paul Schultz,
Robert Willis, Gary Becker, Mark Rosenzweig) have worked to analyze non-
market behavior in households, by considering households as unified con-
sumption and production units, with an end toward explaining changing
trends in fertility, marriage, migration, and women's labor force partic-
ipation. The most unified analysis that espouses this theoretical posi-
tion is provided in: Gary S. Becker: A Treatise on the Family. Cambridge
and London: Harvard University Press, 1981. For a sampling of analyses
along these lines dealing with a diversity of issues, see Theodore W.
Schultz (ed): Economics of the Family: Marriage, Children and Human
Capital. Chicago and London. Published for the National Bureau of
Economic Research by University of Chicago Press, 1974. Basic to the ap-
proach is the idea that within households, market goods, household member
time and capital are combined to produce basic "commodities," which are
not necessarily goods in the usual sense but include many of the entities
that this article considers, such as status and good health.
3. Much anthropological research has implicitly or explicitly presented
evidence that calls the new household economics model into question.
Recent materials include: Roger Sanjek: "The Organization of Households
in Adabraka: Toward a Wider Comparative Perspective," in Comparative
Studies in Society and History 24:57-103(1982) and Sylvia Junko
Yanagisako: "Family and Household: The Analysis of Domestic Groups" in
Annual Review of Anthropology 8:161-206 (1979). Anthropological data
especially stress the diversity of forms that families and households
take, their variable degrees of corporateness, their varying functional
emphases according to the social-historical moment, and their changing
structures over time. In particular, anthropologists have demonstrated
that the stereotypic Western family -- nuclear and male-managed -- is no
way near universal.
4. Diverse works on the topic include: Claude Meillassoux: Femnes, Greniers
et Capitaux. Paris: Maspero, 1974; H. Wolpe: "The Theory of Internal
Colonialism: The South African Case," in J. OKaal et al (eds.): Beyond
the Sociology of Development. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975,
pp. 229-52; Heleieth I.B. Saffioti: Emprego Domestico e Capitalismo.
Petropolis: Vozes, 1978.
5. Alejandro Portes: Labor, Class and the International System. New York:
Academic Press, 1981, provides an explication of how informal sector
workers translate very marginal earnings into overall survival by linking
their remunerative efforts with, for example, the illicit occupancy of
land and by diversifying their involvements. Recent analyses by Johanna
Lessinger: "On the Periphery of Trade: Male Female Competition in the
South Indian Marketplace," Claire Robertson: "The Peril and Profit of
Autonomy: A Comparison of Women's Income Control in Accra and Juchitan,"
and Wambui Karanja: "Yoruba Trading Women" note the generally lesser
returns that women glean in trade in contrastive world regions. These
papers were presented at: the Conference on Women and Income Control in
the Third World, New York: Columbia University, October 7-9, 1982.
6. For example, see Farida Shaheed: Migration and Its Effects on Women in
the Villages of the Provenance. Geneva: International Labour Organiza-
7. Mayra Buvinic, and Nadia H. Youssef with Barbara Von Elm: "Women-Headed
Households: The Ignored Factor in Development Planning." Report submitted
to the Office of Women in Development, Agency for International Develop-
ment. Washington, D.C.: International Center for Research on Women,
8. Sherrie Kossoudji and Eva Mueller: "The Economic and Demographic Status
of Female-Headed Households in Rural Botswana," in Economic Development
and Cultural Change (forthcoming); Jocelin Massiah: "Family Structure and
the Status of Women in the Caribbean, with particular reference to Women
Who Head Households." Paper presented at the meeting of Experts on
Research on the Status of Women, Development and Population Trends:
Evaluation and Prospects, Paris, UNESCO, November 25-28, 1980, Elsa
Chaney, Emmy Simmons and Kathleen Staudt: "Women in Development."
Washington, D.C.: Agency for International Development, 1979, provide
their own estimate of the incidence of female-headedness and see the pat-
tern as basic to roughly one-third to two-fifths of the world's rural
9. Joan Mencher: "Women's Work and Poverty: Their Contributions to House-
hold Maintenance in Two Southern Indian Regions". Paper presented at:
The Conference on Women and Income Control in the Third World, New York:
Columbia University, October 7-9, 1982; "Women, Work and Household Main-
tenance." Paper presented at: the Seminar on Women, Income and Policy,
New York: the Population Council, March 15-16, 1983.
10. The assumptions that: 1) Third World households pool the incomes of
their members, and 2)that decision-making over income entails minimal
male-female tension, range through many models that focus on the inter-
face of politics and economy, including the work of Emmanuel Wallerstein:
The Modern World System. New York: Academic Press, 1975; and Gunder
Frank: Capitalism and Underdevelopment in Latin America. New York:
Monthly Review Press, 1967. Wallerstein's stance was subsequently elabo-
rated in: Emanuel Wallerstein, William Martin, and Tory Dickinson:
"Household Structure and Process: Theoretical Concerns, Plus Data from
Southern Africa and Nineteenth Century United States". Paper presented
at: the Colloquium on Production and Reproduction of the Labor Force,
Fiore, Italy, 1979.
11. Kathleen Staudt: Women and Participation in Rural Development: A Frame-
work for Policy Design and Policy Oriented Research. Ithaca: Cornell
University, Center for International Studies 1979, pp. 36-49;
Kathleen Staudt: "Household Structure in Africa" in Barbara Stoecker,
Evelyn Montgomery and S. Edna Gott (eds): Developing Nations: Challenges
Involving Women. Lubbock, Texas: International Center for Arid and Semi-
Arid Land Studies, Texas Tech University 1982, pp. 201-04; James M. Blaut
et al., "A Study of Cultural Determinants of Soil Erosion and Conserva-
tion in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica", in Lambros Comitas and David
Lowenthal (eds.): Work and Family Life: West Indian Perspectives. New
York: Doubleday Anchor, 1973; Susan E. Brown: "Lower Economic Sector
Female Mating Patterns in the Dominican Republic" in Ruby
Rohrlich-Leavitt (ed): Women Cross-Culturally, Change and Challenge.
Mouton: The Hague, 1975.
12. Eleanor Fapohunda: "The Non-Pooling Household: A Challenge To Theory."
Paper presented at: The Seminar on Women, Income and Policy, New York:
The Population Council, March 15-16, 1983.
13. Wambui Karanja, cited in note 3.
14. Relevant work on the class correlates of 'gender and income' behavior in
United States households include: Robert Blood and Donald Wolfe: Husbands
and Wives: The Dynamics of Married Living. New York: Free Press, 1960;
Kristin A. Moore and Isabel V. Sawhill: Women in the American Economy.
New York: Columbia University Press, 1976; Mirra Komarovsky: Blue-Collar
Marriage. New York: Random House, 1962; and Stephen Bahr: "Effects on
Power and Division of Labor in the Family" in Lois Hoffman and Ivan Nye
(eds.): Working Mothers. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1974.
15. Martha Roldan: "Intrahousehold Patterns of Money Allocation and Women's
Subordination." Paper presented at: The Conference on Women and Income
Control in the Third World, New York: Columbia University, October 7-9,
17. Rae Lessa Blumberg: "Comments on methods: Latin America." Comments pre-
sented at: The Seminar on Women, Income and Policy, New York: The Popula-
tion Council, March 15-16, 1983.
18. Hanna Papanek, "Comments on Methods: Indonesia." Comments presented at:
The Seminar on Women, Income and Policy, New York: The Population Coun-
cil, March 15-16, 1983.
19. Kathleen Staudt, cited in noted 9; Constantina Safilios-Rothschild: "The
Role of the Family: A Neglected Aspect of Poverty." World Development
Report, World Bank, 1980; Kamene Okonjo; "Rural Women's Credit Systems: A
Nigerian Example," in Sondra Zeidenstein (ed.): Learning About Rural
Women. Studies in Family Planning, 10, (nos. 11, 12): 326-31 (1979);
Achola Pala Okeyo: "Women in the Household Economy: Managing Multiple
Roles" in S. Zeidenstein (ed.), pp. 337-43.
20. Joan Mencher, cited in note 7; Martha Roldan, cited in note 12; and Suad
Joseph: "Women and Income in Urban Lebanese Working-Class Households."
Paper presented at: The Conference on Women and Income Control in the
Third World, New York: Columbia University, October 1982.
21. Ann Whitehead: "I'm Hungry Mum': The Politics of Domestic Budgeting," in
Kate Young, Carol Wolkowitz and Roslyn McCullagh (eds.): Of Marriage and
the Market: Women's Subordination in International Perspective. London:
CSE Books, 1981; Susan E. Brown, cited in note 9; Shubh Kumar: Role of
the Household Economy in Child Nutrition at Low Incomes: A Case Study in
Kerala." Occasional Paper No. 95, Cornell University, December 1978.
22. H.S. Houthakker: "An International Comparison of Housekeeping Expenditure
Patterns, Commemorating the Centenary of Engel's Law." Econometrica
25:532-51 (1957); Jane I. Guyer: "Dynamic Approaches to Domestic Budget-
ing: Cases and Methods from Africa." Paper presented at: The Conference
on Women and Income Control in the Third World, New York: Columbia
University, October 7-9, 1982. For a general analysis of Engel's contri-
bution to feminist theory, see: Eleanor Burke Leacock: "Introduction"
in F. Engels: The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
New York: International Publishers, 1972.
23. Ann Whitehead, cited in note 18, speaks of "maternal altruism" in this
24. Mead Cain, Syeda Rokeya Khanam and Shamsun Nahar: "Class, Patriarchy and
Women's Work in Bangladesh." Population and Development Review
25. Ingrid Palmer: "The Basic Needs Approach to the Integration of Rural
Women in Development: Conditions for Success." Paper presented at: the
Conference on Women and Development, Wellesley, Massachusetts: Wellesley
College, 1976; Jane Hangar and Jan Moris: "Women and the Household
Economy" in Robert Chambers and Jan Moris (eds.), MWEA: An irrigated rice
settlement in Kenya." Munich: Weltforum Verlag, 1973; 0. Stavrakis and
S.M.L. Marshall: "Women, Agriculture and Development in the Maya Low-
lands: Project or Progress?" Paper presented at: the International Con-
ference on Women and Food, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1978; R.B.
Tripp: Farmers and Traders: Some Economic Determinants of Nutritional
Status in Northern Ghana. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics and Environmen-
tal Child Health 27:15-22 (1981); Andrea Menefee Singh: "Women and the
Family: Coping with Poverty in the Bastis of Delhi." Social Action
26. Shubh Kumar, cited in note 18; Shubh Kumar: Composition of Economic Con-
straints in Child Nutrition: Impact of Maternal Incomes and Employment in
Low-Income Households. Ithaca: Cornell University Ph.D. dissertation,
27. Susan E. Brown, cited in note 9, documents a comparative increase in the
quality and quantity of food, in shelter size, and in psychological well-
being when poor women choose not to marry, but rather opt to maintain
greater control over income by engaging in less formalized relations with
a series of males.
28. Joan Mencher, cited in note 7; Martha Roldan, cited in note 12; and from
Devaki Jain: personal communication.
29. Pauline Peters: discussion comments at: the Seminar on Women, Income and
Policy, New York: The Population Council, March 15-16, 1983.
30. It is important to note that households that evince identical male/female
ratios and display identical relational configurations in the household
will function variably depending upon the relative affective strength of
consanguineal and conjugal ties. The implications are marked regarding
the support of females, as is noted for the Middle Eastern case in, for
example: Richard T. Antoun: "Litigant Strategies in Islamic Courts in
Jordan" in Daisy Hilse Dwyer (ed.): Law and Islam in the Middle East.
New York: Bergin Publishing Co., 1983. (forthcoming).
31. Eleanor Fapohunda: discussion comments at: The Seminar on Women, Income
and Policy, New York: The Population Council, March 15-16, 1983.
32. Women are apt to be cautious about their longer-range investments in
family and household in contexts in which men can take additional wives,
as is noted by: Annette Correze et al: "The Participation of Rural Women
in Development: A Project of Rural Women's Animation in Niger 1966-75".
Paris: IRAM, 1976; and Richard Curley: Women, Shades and Elders.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. It is also to be noted
that women's allocational priorities are sometimes geared as much to sur-
vival after divorce as to success within marriage, as is noted for both
Hausa and Akan women in: Polly Hill: Rural Hausa. Cambridge: University
Press, 1972, Cambridge; and Polly Hill: "The West African Farming House-
hold" in Jack Goody"(ed.): Changing Social Structure in Ghana. London:
International African Institute, 1975.
33. The undervaluation of women's work in terms of wages is affirmed in a
plethora of studies conducted in diverse regions, including: Zubeida M.
Ahmad and Martha F. Loutfi: "Women Workers in Rural Development."
Geneva: International Labour Organization, 1982 which summarizes a diver-
sity of research showing that rural women sometimes earn as little as a
third to a fifth of the wages earned by men. Minimal job security, with
minimal protection, is a second contributing feature of the problem of
undervaluation. The latter has been discussed for workers in export-
processing zones in Mexico and the Philippines in: Maria Patricia
Fernandez-Kelly: "Export Processing and State Legislation: Women Workers
in the United States and Mexico." Paper presented at: The Conference on
Women and Income Control in the Third World, New York: Columbia Univer-
sity, October 7-9, 1982 and in June Nash: Women and Multinational
Production: A Comparison of United States and Latin American Cases.
Paper presented at: The Conference on Women and Income Control in the
Third World, New York: Columbia University, October 7-9, 1982.
34. Joan Mencher, cited in note 7; Martha Roldan, cited in note 12; Claire
Robertson, cited in note 3.
35. Marianne Schmink notes the distinction between survival strategies and
mobility strategies, and records that households often strategically
blend the two, often on a gender basis. See Marianne Schmink, cited in
36. Gillian Hart: "Patterns of Household Labour Allocation in a Javanese
Village" in Hans P. Binswanger, Robert E. Evenson, Cecilia A.
Florencio, and Benjamin N.F. White (eds.): Rural Household Studies in
Asia. Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1980, pp. 188-217.
37. Martha Roldan, cited in note 12.
38. Constantina Safilios-Rothschild: "Study of the Household in
Absentiamentos, Honduras." New York: The Population Council (forth-
coming); Jane Guyer, cited in note 22; Nancy Lee Peluso: Comments pre-
sented at the Seminar on Women, Income and Policy, New York. The Popula-
tion Council, March 15-16, 1983.
39. A comprehensive tally of women's income-generating activities is at-
tempted for one fieldwork region in: Nancy Lee Peluso: "Putting People
Into Boxes, or Building Boxes Around the People? Approaches to Designing
Occupational Categories for Java." University Gadjah Mada Working Paper
Series No. 19. Yogyakarta, Indonesia. A general discussion of the dif-
ficulties entailed in estimating women's work is provided in: Lourdes
Beneria: "Accounting for Women's Work," in L. Beneria (ed.): Women and
Development: The Sexual Division of Labor in Rural Societies. New York:
Praeger, 1982, pp. 119-47.
40. Hanna Papanek: "Family Status Production: The Work and 'Non-work' of
Women." Signs 4(4): 775-81 (1979).
41. Shubh Kumar, cited in note 18.
42. A.B. Wilson: "Longitudinal Analyses of Diet, Physical Growth, Verbal
Development and School Performance," in J.B. Balderston, A.B. Wilson, M.
Freire, and M. Simonen: Malnourished Children of the Rural Poor.
Boston: Auburn, 1981.
43. Patricia Engle: "The Effect of Maternal Employment on Children's Welfare
in Rural Guatemala" (in manuscript).
44. Ingrid Palmer: discussion leader comments at: The Seminar on Women, In-
come and Policy, New York: The Population Council, 1983; Ingrid Palmer:
"Rural Women and the Basic-Needs Approach to Development", International
Labour Review 115 (1): 97-107 (1977).
45. Elizabeth King and Robert E. Evanson: "Time Allocation and Home Produc-
tion in Philippine Rural Households," in Mayra Buvinic, Margaret A.
Lycette, and William Paul McGreevey (eds.): Women and Poverty in the
Third World. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1983.
46. Mead Cain: "Investing in Children: Bangladesh." Paper presented at: The
Seminar on Women, Income and Policy, New York: The Population Council,
March 15-16, 1982.
47. R.M. Fagley: "Easing the Burden of Women: A 16-hour Workday." Assignment
Children 36:9-18 (1976); B.G. McSweeney: "Collection and Analysis of Data
on Rural Women's Time Use," in S. Zeidenstein (ed.), cited in note 16,
pp. 379-83; M. Nag, Benjamin N.F. White, and R.C. Peet: "An Anthropologi-
cal Approach to the Study of the Economic Value of Children in Java and
Nepal." Current Anthropology 19:293-306 (1978).
48. Peter Smith: "Asian Nuptiality in Transition." Paper presented at: The
Seventh Summer Seminar on Population, East-West Populat:ion Institute,
49. The tensions entailed in inter-generational struggles over asset control
are detailed, for example, in diverse articles in: Paul Bohannan (ed.):
African Homicide and Suicide. New York: Atheneum, 1967. Such tensions,
which sometimes lead to a heightened incidence of patricide, reflect the
deep need of younger males to secure wives in order to gain land rights
for themselves, rights which elder male family members often wish to
maintain for self. Veena Thadani: "Property and Progeny: An Exploration
of Intergenerational Relations." Center for Policy Studies Working Paper
No. 62, 1980, emphasizes the cruciality of the social organization of
production in shaping decision-making about intergenerational transfers
within households. Christina Szanton: "Investing in Children and Income
Control: Some Implications of Gender, Birth Order and Class." Paper pre-
sented at: The Conference on Women and Income Control in the Third World,
New York: Columbia University, October 7-9, 1982 looks intensively at the
gender aspects of such transfers among two Thai populations.
50. For example, see Marjorie Topley: "Marriage Resistance in Rural Kwantung"
in Margery Wolf and Roxane Witke (eds.): Women in Chinese Society. Palo
Alto: Stanford University Press, 1975; Susan E. Brown: "Love Unites Them
and Hunger Separates Them" in Rayna Reiter (ed.): Toward an Anthropology
of Women. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975.
51. Martha Roldan, cited in note 12.
52. Thomas W. Merrick and Marianne Schmink: "Households Headed by Women and
Urban Poverty in Brazil", in Mayra Buvinic, Margaret A. Lycette, and
William Paul McGreevey, (eds.), Women and Poverty in the Third World.
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.
53. Sherrie Kossoudji and Eva Mueller, cited in note 6, determine that
female-headed households receive a mere 16% of all income in Botswana,
while constituting 29% of the total number of households and containing
23% of all residents.
54. Eleanor Fapohunda, as cited in endnote 28.
55. A.K.M.A. Chowdury, S. Huffman and L.C. Chen: "Interaction of agriculture,
dietary practices, and infection on seasonal dimensions of energy mal-
nutrition." Paper presented at: the Conference on Seasonal Dimensions to
Rural Poverty. Sussex, England: University of Sussex, July 1978; J.C.
Caldwell, "A Theory of Fertility: From High Plateau to Destabilization."
Population and Development Review 4(4):553-77 (1978); Mead Cain, Syeda
Rokeya Khanam and Shamsun Nahar: "Class, Patriarchy, and the Structure of
Women's Work in Rural Bangladesh." Center for Policy Studies Working
Paper No. 43, The Population Council, 1979.
56. Once males are absent from these households, however, women often do not
engage in self-sacrifice as they had previously, as is noted by Suad
Joseph, cited in note 17.
57. Some of the taboos to which Indian widows are subjected are summarized
in: Edward B. Harper: "Fear and the Status of Women." Southwestern
Journal of Anthropology XXV: 81-6 (1969).
58. For example, see: Vanessa Maher: "Work, Consumption and Authority Within
the Household: A Moroccan Case," in Kate Young, Carol Wolkowitz and
Roslyn McCullagh (eds.): Of Marriage and the Market: Women's Subordina-
tion in International Perspective. London: CSE Books, 1981, pp. 69-87.
59. R.M. Fagley, cited in note 44; B.G. McSweeney, cited in note 44.
60. Judith A. Harrington: "Nutritional Stress and Economic Responsibility: A
Study of Nigerian Women", in Mayra Buvinic, Margaret A. Lycette, and
William Paul McGreevey, (eds.): Women and Poverty in the Third World,
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.
61. Marianne Schmink: "Women in the Urban Economy in Latin America", Working
Paper No. 1. Women, Low Income Households and Urban Service Project.
The Population Council, June 1982.
62. Eleanor Fapohunda, cited in note 10.
63. Constance Sutton: "Wealth and Power: Yoruba Gender Differences in the
Pursuit of the 'Good Life'." Paper presented at: the Conference on
Women and Income Control in the Third World. Columbia University,
October 7-9, New York, 1982.
64. Mead T. Cain: "The Household Life Cycle and Economic Mobility in Rural
Bangladesh", Center for Policy Studies Working Papers No. 28 (1978); A.
Abdullah and S. Zeidenstein: Village Women of Bangladesh: Prospects for
Change. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1981.
65. Eva Mueller: "Measuring Women's Poverty in Developing Countries", in
Mayra Buvinic, Margaret A. Lycette, and William Paul McGreevey, (eds.):
Women and Poverty in the Third World, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univer-
sity Press, 1983.
66. Gillian Hart: "Peasants and the State: Livelihood Strategies and Struc-
tural Change in Java," Sallie Westwood, "Female Migrants Among the Work-
ing Class in England," Safia Mohsen: "Class, Economy and Women's Employ-
ment," Ann Stoler: "The Subterranean Sector: Women's Unrecorded Incomes
in Indonesia." Papers presented at: The Conference on Women and Income
Control in the Third World, New York: Columbia University, October 7-9,
1982 and Gita Sen: "Women Agricultural Laborers in India: Interregional
Variations." Papers presented at the Conference on Women and Income
Control in the Third World, New York: Columbia University, October 7-9,
1982; Rae Lesser Blumberg, cited in note 14. All of these analyses pre-
sent case materials on the interface of gender and class. The Indonesian
case is also presented in detail in Gillian Hart: Labor Allocation
Strategies in Rural Javanese Households. Cornell University, Ph.D. dis-
sertation, 1978. A diversity of materials relating to the interface of
gender and class is also available in Annette Kuhn and Ann Marie Wolpe
(eds.): Feminism and Materialism. Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul,
1978, and June Nash and Helen Safa (eds.): Sex and Class in Latin
America. New York: Praeger, 1976.
67. Daisy Hilse Dwyer: "Outside The Courts," in Jean Hay and Marcia Wright
(eds.): African Women and the Law. Boston: Boston University Press,
1982, provides comparative analysis of the legal and extra-legal sides of
women's property claims. For Bangladesh data regarding this point, see:
Mead Cain, Syeda Rokeya Khanam, and Shamsun Nahar, cited in note 51. and
A. Abdullah and S. Zeidenstein, cited in note 60.
68. Raj Krishna: discussion comments as presented at: The Seminar on Women,
Income and Policy, New York: the Population Council, 1983. See also
Gillian P. Hart: discussion comments at: the Seminar on Women, Income
and Policy, New York: the Population Council, 1983.
69. Patricia Pessar: "The Household as a Locus of Resistance and Struggle:
The Income Strategies of Dominican Migrants," in manuscript. An analysis
of changing patterns of income generation and use by migrants was pre-
sented by Helen Safa: discussion leader's comments at: The Conference on
Women and Income Control in the Third World, New York: Columbia Univer-
sity, October 7-9, 1982.
70. Kathleen Staudt: Redistribution Between the Sexes: Obstacles to Policy
Implementation and Institutionalization. New York: Praeger (forthcom-
ing) looks at the negative effects upon development planning of the
structure and functioning of the A.I.D. bureaucracy.
71. Kathleen Staudt, cited in note 9.
72. Ester Boserup: Women's Role in Economic Development. London: Allen and
Unwin, 1970; Bina Agarwal: Agricultural Modernization and Third World
Women: Pointers from the Literature and an Empirical Analysis. Geneva;
International Labour Organization, 1981.
73. See, for example, Raymond Aptharpe: Two Blades of Grass. Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1971.
74. Eleanor Fapohunda, cited in note 10, notes the negative effect of one
recent land redistribution program in Nigeria in which land in Lagos was
provided to households by the government thereby neglecting the separate
property rights of husbands and wives. Zenebeworke Tadesse discussed the
limited impact of Ethopian land reform measures on women in: Z. Tadesse:
"The Impact of Land Reform on Women" in Lourdes Beneria (ed); Women and
Development; The Sexual Division of Labor in Rural Societies. New York:
Praeger, 1982, pp. 203-22. See also Aminata Traore: "L'acces des femmes
Ivoiriennes aux resources: les femmes et la terre en pays Adioukrou."
Paper presented at: the ILO Tripartite African Regional Seminar on Rural
Development and Women, Dakar, June 1981 and James Brain, "Less than
Second Class," in Nancy Hafkin and Edna Bay (eds), African Women in
Changing Perspective. Stanford: Stanford University Press (1976).
75. Judith Bruce, "Market Women's Cooperatives: Giving Women Credit". SEEDS,
The Population Council, 1980.
76. Raj Krishna: "Women and Development Planning (with special reference to
Asia and Pacific)," in manuscript.
77. Brenda McSweeney: "An Approach to Collecting and Examining Data on Rural
Women's Time Use and Some Tentative Findings: The Case of Upper Volta."
Working Paper prepared for the Seminar on Rural Women and the Sexual
Division of Labor. New York: The Population Council, 1977.
78. Shubh Kumar, cited in note 18; A.B. Wilson, cited in note 39.
79. Patricia Engle, cited in note 40.
80. Beatrice Rogers has noted the off-stated association between female
employment, children's lesser nutritional levels, and generally lesser
care in her upcoming comprehensive review of the literature on women and
nutrition. As she and Joan Mencher note, however, these findings often
refer to cases in which the positive effects of women's added incomes
are obscured because comparisons refer to households which are grouped by
total income and which are compared within these income categories.
81. Raj Krishna, as cited in note 64, especially emphasizes the need to
address the "onerous social institutional" inequalities that beset women.
The mobilization of legal specialists to secure needed reform on the
legal side was underscored by Abraham Weisblat at: the Seminar on Women,
Income and Policy. New York: The Population Council, March 15-16,
82. Carmen Diana Deere: "Household Poverty and Female Subordination: The
Work Remuneration Gap." Paper presented at: the Conference on Women
and Income Control in the Third World. New York: Columbia University,
October 7-9, 1982.
WOMEN AND INCOME CONTROL
Joan Mencher (CUNY): Women's Work and Poverty: Their Contributions to
Household Maintenance in Two Southern Indian Regions
This paper is based on a partial analysis of data from some of the
villages being surveyed in a larger study of Women and Rice Cultivation
in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. In particular, the present paper
draws on data from nine of our sample villages (though the amount and type
of data used for each of the nine differs slightly). The present paper
is only concerned with our sample of landless agricultural labourers and
does not include the date from land owners, or households where small
amounts of land are owned but the women also do wage work. Among these
families, women contribute a significant propoetion of their income to
While the data vary somewhat by village, the following trends emerge
regarding income-generating and income-allocating patterns:
1) women are paid lower wages than men; thus their incomes are smaller
in the absolute sense
2) women's earning power varies according to their health status
3) women's contributions in poor families are essential to survival
4) wives generally give over a higher percentage of their incomes
to the household than men do
5) husbands withhold income for their own leisure activities
Women thus seem to show greater responsibility toward their households,
a pattern which children perhaps recognize: adult sons, for example,
contribute a higher percentage of their incomes to their mothers than
their fathers do.
Martha Roldan (CEIM: Center for Interdisciplinary Studies for Women): "Intra-Househol
Patterns of Money Allocation and Women's Subordination: Domestic 'utworkers in
This paper sets out to explore aspects of the income distribution process
in working class households in Mexico City, particularly the patterns of flow
and allocation of money to meet personal and collective consumption needs.
The data compiled were collected during 1981/82 among female domestic outworkers.
Types of work performed include: assembling plastic flowers, toys and paper boxes;
cutting edges of plastic products; packing, and making coils for the electronics
industry. Piece work wages fall below the legal minimum, entail no fringe benefits,
and unionization is forbidden.
With regard to family context, 76% of these outworkers were wives and
mothers,13% were heads of households, and 7% were single daughters.The typical
domestic outworker thus was of reproductive age, a wife in a nu clear family,
and a mother of young children. Due to husbands' earnings, the population
was not marginal: almost 80% of these male heads of households earned a salary equi
valent or higher than the minimum legal wage in 1981.
Two allocational patterns were found in these households. In the first one,
a portion of the husband's earnings, plus the earnings of the outworker wife,
became part of a pool or common fund. This fund was used to cover the basic
expenditures of the household, This pattern is especially found in lower
income households, where husbands' wages only reach the level of niiimum legal wag
The second pattern is non-pool and involves a housekeeping allowance to the
wife, who then uses her earnings to cover expenditures over and abovywhat the
husband's wage secures. This pattern predominates in higher income households.
In both kinds of households the managerial process is one of constant
negotiation and is fraught with anxieties. Wives, for example, often do not
know husbands' actual earning-, which causes them considerable resentment.
Husbands also generally decide the percentage of money that they keep
for themselves, The amount, although not the existence of such pocket
money per se, is the main quarreling point between spouses. Wives,
by contrast, contribute 100% of their earnings for household use.
Dynamic Approaches to Domestic Budgeting. Cases and Methods
Social theory has recently been oriented towards
exploring the interaction between domestic relations and
wider structures, in a historical framework. However,
concepts and methodologies still need to be developed to
carry out this research agenda. Household budget studies are
a critical resource here, because 1. the methodologies can
be examined critically, and 2. the data generated can be
reinterpreted to give some time depth to data collected for
the present. Part I discusses methodologies used in Africa
and argues that considerable progress was made in
documenting income by individual, but not in documenting
expenditure responsibilities. This is partly due to the
difficulty of defining a household as a consumption unit.
Part II examines women's individual budgets collected in
Southern Cameroon and interprets women's income and
expenditure in relation to the male economy along several
dimensions: by marital status, by season, by wealth and
stage in the developmental cycle, and in the context in
longer term changes in the rural economy. A dynamic approach
to resource access and use is advocated.
Constance Sutton (NYU): Wealth and Power: DifIerences in the Pursuit of the
of the 'Good Life'.
Most studies of women in the formal and informal sectorsof their
economies consider the objective aspects of women's work involvements:
their income levels, occupations, and careers patterns. Interviews
with 130 Oyo Yoruba focused on Yoruba perceptions of income, wealth
and prestige. The attempt was to present Yoruba evalUations of the
income generating activities of nen and women and how this is related
to the control over income allocation that men and women exercise.
Of the 65 men and 65 women interviewed, 40% of the men and 53%
of the women worked in the informal sector, 22% of e.ch sex did factory work,
while 38% of the men and 25% of the women worked in bureaucratic-prfressional
jobs. Informal sector activitfes,however, were not less valued. Indeed,
the formal sector was perceived as providing new social ties and 'money
to those who worked within it, but the informal sector provided the
enduringly valued social network and its associated wealth. Women's
involvements in the informal sector were thus not devalued as a
consequence. Nor is their involvement in reproduction devalued, for
children tu:tinue to be regarded as wealth. Indeed, the shared perception
is that women's autonomy, wealth and power have increased with recent
Wambui Karanja (University of Lagos, Nigeria): Yoruba Trading Women
Yoruba trading women have long been regarded as the prototypical
female entrepreneurs. All Yoruba women trade, unless they are ill or
senile. Beginning with starting capital, which is obtained from mothers,
women's credit organizations, or more rarely (though increasingly) from
husbands, the Yoruba trading women, can become a considerable success, some
winning enterprises of international proportions. Children, who aid in
procuring customers, are a substantial asset, and reproduction and trade
are in no sense competitive activities.
Yoruba trading women are largely autonomous of their husbands and try
to remain so. Spouses generally do not share financial information, or
assets, and mothers are responsible for the feeding of children and for
contributions to their tuitions. Indeed, women traders see reliance on
husbands for credit as a danger. Their rotating credit and mutual
are vigorously maintained as an alternative system of support.
But the success of most Yoruba trading women is also overplayed: most
are small-scale traders, who trade in a commodities that are inherited
from their mothers, unable to expand into the lucrative trade in textiles.
Suad Joseph (University of California, Davis): "Women and Household Expenditres
among the Lebanese Working Class"
The position of urban working &ass women and men inLebanon must be
understood in the context of the historically specific evolution of the
Lebanese state. The state emerged within the Mediterranean-based
capitalist economy and came to play a highly specialized role in that economy.
The economy was geared to banking, tourism, and trade, which provided few
jobs for urban working class women. Agriculture was undermined so that both
men and women were pushed from the countryside into the cities. War, rapid
urbanization, and a boom-and-bust economy all made social life unstable and often
volatile at the local level. In this context, women's activities became increasingly
importantas they were restructured in families and women's networks, for it was
through local informal and formal institutions that local level order was
maintained. The current role of women within the household is considered against
this backdrop of women's revised political positions.
Data for budget analysis were derived from 65 households and suggest, first,
a general level of comparability in expenditure patterns across ethnic
and sectarian lines at equivalent class levels. Moreover, while divorce
and widowhood generated problems for women as regards finances, many of these
womernonetheless did well, and occasionally better, in fulfilling their own
budgeting priorities, which weredifferent from men's. The tendency of married,
working class women to abstain from using household allocations for
personal expenditures, unlike their men, was also noted.
Safia Mohsen (State University of New York, Binghamton): Class, Economy
and Women's Employment: The Income Strategies of Middle Class Women in Egypt
This paper examines changes in women's income strategies under the
so-called "Open Door" of the late President Sadat. The period is one of
high consumerism, high inflation, and shifting class definitions, with con-
spicuous consumption joining family background as a determinant of middle
and upper class status.
For upper-middle and lower-middle class women, these changes have
had untold consequences and have exerted considerable pressures, albeit of
a contrastive sort. Upper-middle class women have found their powers waning
in the family sphere. In particular, the tight new economic situation has
meant that husbands and wives increasingly both work outside the household,
the wives typically as professionals. Income is closely budgeted unlike
before, when upper-middle class women had almost free rein over expenditures.
The women who work also have lost the power over persons that being full-
time mistresses over servants once implied. For lower middle-class women,
new employment opportunities are located in the public sector. The cost of
hiring domestic help, however, has offset women's new earnings. Moreover,
their incomes are threatened by incorporation into a family income pool.
As a result, a back-to-home movement has developed among these women, who
findgeater advantages, as regards income and status, in remaining at home.
In addition, she posits that male migration, especially intrastate
migration, raises women's rate of participation. She suggests that over-
supply of males also contributes to pushing women out of the work force.
Nevertheless, although the research is preliminary, it suggests that certain
existing categories such as "impoverishment" are too crude to help us
understand women's work patterns.
"Women's Contribution to Peasant Household Income--An HLstorical
Analysis of Poverty and Subordination in the Peruvian Sierra"
Carmen Diana Deere, U ..ass/Amherst, Economics Dept.
The central. thesis of this paper is that the subordination of
women as a social group has quite high costs for the peasant
household: the level of household income Is considerably lower
than would otherwise be the case. In fact, an important factor
in the reproduction of rural poverty over time is the low social
valuation of women's labor as compared to men's, as well as the
social, political and economic constraints which limit women's
access to productive resources.
This thesis is developed in an historical analysis of the changes
in women's work, access to resources and contribution to household
income in the northern Peruvian sierra. A case study, based on
archival materials, is presented of household income generation
on the haciendas in the 1920s. Among the factors that limited
women's contribution to household income in this period were the
following: Rental arrangements between peasants and landlords
were agreements between men. Only men inherited the right of
usufruct of land on the hacienda and only male labor service obliga-
tions to the landlord were clearly specified. As a result, women
were totally dependent upon men for access to pastures to carry out
their main productive activity, animal raising, and peasant women
were subject to the unlimited appropriation of their labor time by
the landlord class. Moreover, when wage payments were introduced
on the hacienda, it was only for the male labor services. It is
shown how as a result of these factors, women's contribution to
household income, and thus the level of household income, where
much lower than should have teen the case.
The dissolution of the 'acler.na system In the 1950s Lntroduced
important changes in wnr.en's access to l?.ni and Inco.e generating
activities. Some were ooslttve changes: peasant women who had
resided on the haciendas were able to purchase land In their own
name. Other changes were more negative: pasture land became all
private property and women's main income generating activity, anL"al
raising, was considerably conscribed. Moreover, the rrowir.g landless-
ness of the peasantry in the subsequent decade required peasant
households to increasingly rely upon wa.e work for an important share
of household income. But the majority of employment opportunities
were available only to men. Women were hired for only the most labor-
intensive agricultural tasks, at half the male waae. As a result of
all of these factors, survey data for the 1970s show that while women
work as many productive hours as do men, since the remuneration to
their labor is lower, so is their contribution to peasant household
Claire Robertson (University of Indiana): The Perils and Profit of
Autonomy: A Comparison of Women's Income Control in Accra and Juchitan
This paper identifies critical variables in determining two chief
aspects of women's income control among two superficially similar urban
populations, the Ga of Central Accra, Ghana, and lower class Isthmus
Zapotec of Juchitan, Mexico. These two aspects are ability to manipulate
income independent of others, and ability to influence income level.
Although possessing striking similarities in socioeconomic structure and
historical experience, the results of change over time for the two groups
of women have been radically different. The Ga women are persistently and
increasingly underprivileged, while the Zapotec women have ongoing and even
increasing prosperity in Juchitan. At the core of the explanation of these
different outcomes is different levels of autonomy in terms of income
control. The micro-level autonomy whereby Ga women manipulate their incomes
independent of others has become a distinct disadvantage, and even contri-
buted to, their systematic lack of access to resources, while the greater
macro-level autonomy of the Zapotec has given them more control over
important resources and therefore more control over their income level.
Johanna Lessinger (Columbia University): On the Periphery of Trade: Male-
Female Competition in the South Indian Marketplace
This paper looks at women's income-generating activities in the produce
trade, part of the informal sector of the Madras city economy. It notes that
cultural factors hinder women as traders in the informal sector; similar fac-
tors hinder many women's involvement in formal sector employment. One effect
is that given the current depressed state of the economy, men and women are
competing fir the same scarce informal sector jobs, and women are not able to
utilize theur full income-earning potential on behalf of families that require
Madras marketplaces are loci of considerable gender conflict by virtue
of Hindu notions of sexuality and modesty, as women traders try to meet modesty
demands at the same time they compete against male traders, who constitute the
numerical majority (65-75%). Modesty deamnds, as well as male harassment
place restrictions on women's ability to win over buyers, to contact suppliers,
to hire non-familial labor, and to move to regions of heightened demand. In-
deed, modesty restrictions vie with women's lesser capital in disadvantaging
women, Various strategies are utilized to reduce these disadvantages. The
most successful traders are in partnership with men, who, however, are thereby
threats to women's autonomy. Women traders also tend to stay within their lo-
cal markets, where their kin can offer them protection. Children are a parti-
cular asset due to the hiring limitation that women face. Rotating credit
associations, to which both sexes belong, provide women with support that they
would be individually be unable to secure. These compensatory strategies allow
women to compete, but do not raise most female traders' income above a low level.
INVESTING IN CHILDREN AND INCOME CONTROL: IMPLICATIONS OF
CLASS. BIRTH ORDER AND GENDER : Christina Szanton (Columbia)
This paper focuses on resource flows between parents
and children, in both directions. Aside from inheritance it-
self, it deals with the time and funds allocated to training
the next generation as well as with the work and income transfers
among household and family members. The paper examines the dif-
ferential control and sharing of resources within households
and families overtime. It shows that class position, together
with particular modes of family organization (themselves rein-
forced or challenged by changes in class position), have strong
implications for the allocation of individuals to the labor
force in present-day industrialising Thailand and other compa-
rable Third World countries. The paper is organised in two
(A) A case-study based on research from Central Thailand
contrasting the investment-in-children behavior of two ethnic
groups, the Thai and the Sino-Thai, with distinctive kinship
organisation and sexual divisions of labour., (These two ethnic
groups also show differences in age at birth of first child
and number of children per family unit). Four key strategic
aspects of the allocation process are-suggestedt
(1) The distribution of household and family consumption
expenses among the children, particularly for training and
education, often critical to their insertion in the labor
(2) The timing and mode of retention or separation of
children from their parents' household or family, often rela-
ted to time of marriage and birth of first child.
(3) The children's contribution (cash,labor, other), to
their parents' household and family before and after their
separation from it. In effect an examination of who stays
home as family labor, who is sent out to earn wages, who con-
tributes otherwise and how.
(4) The timing and distribution of inheritance among
the children, also closely related to their mode of separation
from the parents'household.
This is done in detail for 1974 onthe basis of participant
observation and the analysis of data on 300 households and
families in a Central Thai municipality. It is also done to
some extent historically, comparing 1974 to the situation in
the 1930s, on the basis of detailed family histories over three
generations (including sibling sets),and local historical material.
Interesting differences are noted,for example,between the
investment behavior of Thai and Sino-Thai with regard to daughters
and sons in the 1930s and again in 1974, with a generally greater
tendency for Thai families all along to invest in daughters as
potential independent sources of income. Also, while the pri-
mary unit of resource sharing which decides on issues of invest-
ment in children was generally the extended family for both Thai
and Sino-Thai in the 1930s it had become primarily the household
for many Thai, but continued to be largely the extended family for
Sino-Thai, in 1974. These differences had been variably influenced
overtime by changes in modes of livelihood and in the respective
class positions of different segments of the Thai and Sino-Thai
population, which ultimately affected the whole organisation of their
domestic and extra-domestic relations and their ways of investing
(B) The implications of studying changing multi-ethnic set-
tings for understanding changes and continuities in the sexual
division of labor across generations are then examined. Some of
its potential contributions to an understanding of differential
fertility are also explored.I This leads to a general methodolo-
gical reassessment of recentwritings on "investment in children"
and "household economics" in South and Sputheast Asia, calling for
a broader analysis which incorporates both inter and intra house-
hold relations in the light of a changing larger social, political
and economic context, and which focuses more directly on intergene-
Comparative Studies of Women and Income: Education-Employment-Class Linkages
Hanna Papanek, Center for Asian Development Studies, Boston University
Comparative studies of female education and labor force participation
in several nations of South and Southeast Asia and Egypt, indicate several
contradictory trends which are highly significant for income distribution
and the demand and supply of female labor.
Both Indian and Egyptian labor force data show major changes in the
composition of the female labor force over several recent decades. In India,
overall rates of participation have declined, in Egypt they have not increased,
but in both countries increasing participation has occurred among women with
middle and high levels of education. Since female illiteracy is still very
high in both countries, the majority of the female population is also poorly
educated. Declines in the measured labor force participation of uneducated
women are due to the technological innovations that have reduced demand for
labor in traditional occupations formerly accessible to uneducated women,
including agricultural wage work, industrial production work, and several
artisanal specializations.(These trends have also been observed in Indonesia.)
Since women's contributions to family income are particularly important
among the poor, because of low returns to labor, but are often not reflected
in either employment or production figures, the declining earning opportunities
for uneducated women often go unnoticed and remain unremedied. One indicator
of great importance may be the increasing drop-out rates from primary school
noted in both Egypt and India. It may be that children's earnings substitute
for those of women in low-income families dependent on the earnings of more
than one family member.
Increasing demand for educated women in modern-sector occupations in both
India and Egypt are likely to be related to male-female wage differences,
although this point has not yet been covered in the study. Increasing supply
of educated female labor is the result of economic pressures felt by
middle-class families on fixed incomes and related changes in attitudes
regarding participation in modern-sector jobs. These jobs are regarded as
more "respectable" than traditional employment. Attitude changes are also
related to large increases in female educational participation, especially
in secondary and tertiary education.
The resulting changes in the composition of the measured female labor
force in Egypt are an example of the kinds of trends to be examined in a larger
comparative study. In two decades, the proportion of educated women in the
measured labor force (high school and above) has risen to nearly half of all
women counted "economically active" while the proportion of uneducated women
has sharply declined and their absolute numbers among the economically active
have also decreased. Yet female illiteracy has declined relatively slowly.
There is evidence for rising educational requirements for jobs formerly open
to uneducated women (e.g.industrial production work) and increased female
activity in informal sector earning activities (this evidence is scattered).
Rising primary school drop-out rates support the interpretation that low-income
families are suffering family income declines because of fewer earning
opportunities for adult women. Children, especially young boys, are increasingly
entering "apprenticeship" jobs to supplement the declining supply of adult
males who are migrating to Gulf countries in large numbers. The regular
employment of adult females with low or no education could be fostered by
vocational education, provision of child care,and hiring requirements tailored
to the specific needs of particular jobs.
Hanna Papanek -2-
Increases in regular employment of middle-class educated women are
also related to changes in the calculations of families with respect to
"family status-production work"(Papanek 1979) by women. In societies where
kin units pursue collective, rather than individual, survival and mobility
strategies, women's contributions to family status in the community are
very significant, although unmeasured by conventional concepts. They represent
a collectively controlled resource, against which earnings from other types
of work must be offset in terms of both income and status. Work considered
demeaning implies a status loss to the family which may have serious consequences
in economic and political terms. Family status-production work includes
(i) support activities for the paid work of other family members,(ii) education
of children, both in learning status-appropriate behavior and in help with
formal education, (iii) "politics of status maintenance" in the community,
i.e.shaping evaluation of household status through network membership, gossip,
etc. and (iv) participation in religious and secular rituals on behalf of the
family. The division of labor in the family household includes allocation
of work and resources to both paid and "status-production" work. Control
over the division of labor is in the hands of elders, both male and female,
in societies where this type of work is most frequent.Thif is often a constraint
on the options open to younger women.
The entry of middle-class women into the paid labor force may reflect
changes in the way that families of this class maintain status, as well as
changes in the ways in which power is exercised within the family and mobility
in the society is achieved. Where conspicuous consumption is the basis of
status evaluation rather than mutual relations of trust based on the ability
of families to maintain their "honor," women may be encouraged to seek
income-earning opportunities in order to increase family income. These earning
opportunities must still be sufficiently respectable to offset possible status
loss; some professions may be sufficiently highly evaluated to contribute
to family status, even though they are non-traditional for females.
These factors contribute to increasing educational participation by
women in several countries where collectively held family honor is very
important (e.g.Pakistan,Bangladesh, India). But family resources must suffice
to support female education to levels high enough to qualify girls for
jobs considered respectable or even status-enhancing. This introduces a very
important factor into class differentiation: investments in female education
carry very different risks, depending on educational outcomes, and benefits do not
increase linearly, i.e. the levels at which women are assured employment in
modern-sector jobs are usually higher than those poor families can afford.
Hence increasing demand for educated women in modern-sector occupations
may be a major factor in increasing class differentiation as well as income
inequality. This hypothesis remains to be empirically tested.
In terms of policy, it is clearly in the interests of the middle class
to maintain and strengthen the linkages between education and employment for
women. In Egypt, the government guarantees employment to all university
graduates and those who complete technical, commercial and agricultural
vocational institutes. There is partial evidence that the "overflow" of
moderately educated young women who fail to get guaranteed jobs in time
and those who fall short of the required levels are beginning to enter labor
markets formerly restricted to working-class uneducated or illiterate women.
Employers are extending the reach of higher certification requirements beyond
those jobs requiring technical skills related to formal education and existing
vocational training programs are almost entirely restricted to males.
A planned comparative study of women's work and family strategies
in South and Southeast Asia will be guided by these considerations. Data
already suggest that the differential participation of women in the labor
force, depending on class and educational level, is due in large part to whether
they are more valuable to their families in paid occupations or as unpaid
but not unrewarded contributors to family status maintenance and enhancement.
June Nash (City College of the City University of New York): The
Segmented Labor Force and the International Division of Labor
Stagnation and unemployment experienced in marginal areas of
developed industrial centers rival those found in the Third World since
the 1960s. The distortion of the economy resulting in rampant inflation
combined with deindustrialization, is characterized by rising corporate
profits and falling real wages. A welfare program for business through
tax deferrals, rebates, and even government loans to start plants in Third
World countries supports overseas investments while social welfare programs
in the United States are in decline. The gap between rich and poor
segments of the population is widening along with the decline in redis-
tributive programs. Female-headed families have increased in number and
remain the lowest income sector. The feminization of poverty is a correlate
of the subordination of women in the secondary labor force. It is further
exacerbated by the decline of jobs in the primary work force sector.
Dislocations within the family caused by job loss and out-migrations
of the male wage earner thrust even more of the parental responsibility
on women. Since they are entering the workforce in increasing numbers,
this additional responsibility puts tremendous pressure on them. Ethnic
discrimination directed particularly at recent immigrants is sharpened
as the secondary labor force is inundated with formerly preferentially
treated employees in the industries that have relocated overseas.
In Pittsfield Massachusetts I have been able to observe the differ-
ential impact of the restructuring of industry on different segments of
the workforce. The loss of over 3,000 jobs in the major plant in the
last decade combined with a scaling down of paper factories has caused
a rate of outmigration of 13 percent. The loss of the generationally
extended family and the youthful labor force has had profound effects
on the community. These will be analyzed in relation to the national
and international transformations recorded in statistical trends.
led by Lourdes Beneria
The dominant themes of the discussion were the implica-
tions of questions raised at the conference for policy, in terms
of both import and dissemination of information. Theoretical
questions focused on the connection between ideology about
gender and material processes involved in work and income
The discussion began with the effect of models and
methodologies on analysis and policy. The use of the
concept of "flow" by economist Gita Sen was opposed to
the use of the idea of "stock" as an illustration of how
one's analytical framework may influence both data and
recommendations ("flow" leading to questions of distribution
of employment, income, etc. and "stocks" leading to issues
of resource origin and structural reform).
Ideology was discussed as having material aspects; for
example, prohibitions on women working and restrictions on
women's mobility may result in loss of income. But ideology
was also described as having "a life of its own," as being
difficult to change, even under conditions of revolutionary
change. The role of women in socializing daughters for
appropriate gender behavior, even when this involves physical
pain (as in the case of foot-binding in China) was also raised.
A quote from a woman informant of Patricia Fernandez, "women
have to learn to say no" was brought up in this context.
Ideology was described by Daisy Dwyer as having "many subtle
functions and gradients" which allow it to be preserved
in different settings.
The degree to which feminist scholars are talking only
to each other was raised by Hanna Papanek, who called for
a transformation of social science to remedy this insularity.
Elsa Chaney spoke to this issue, saying that a world was
being built without women.
m.hether and why women are more vulnerable to exploitation
than men was discussed. Connie Sutton reiterated that in the
West African case separate conjugal roles generated women's
control over income--not the denuding of households by poverty.
June Nash also objected to universalist assumptions of female
subordination, saying this is often irrelevant to multinationals.
Fernandez maintained that in the majority of cases women still
earn less than men, and she speculated that this results from
their connection to the sphere of reproduction and their con-
sequent "illegitimate" entry into the labor force, Lourdes
Beneria pointed out that even where women and men earn the
same wages women workers are sometimes preferred because it
is felt they may be easier to control. The basis for this
assumption, she said, is generated outside the workplace.
Papanek cautioned that thinking as "victims" incapacitates us.
The question of income control and choice was also
discussed. Dwyer raised the importance of coordinating the
greater control of women at the local level over "less and
less" with research on who has "more and more," and what
happens at the top and middle levels, not just at the bottom.
Models and policies about development often work on the assump-
tion of choice, while the presentations at the conference
documented the lack of choices for most women. Papanek
stated that it is important to note that capitalist penetration
widens choice for some women. Gita Sen observed that we
shouldn't interpret this in narrow class terms, as such
forms of oppression as dowry and bride burning may also
accompany class enrichment.