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Gender and Agency Within the Household: Experimental Evidence from Pakistan

Aug 2016
Working Paper
Uzma Afzal, Giovanna d'Adda, Marcel Fafchamps, Farah Said

Theoretical and empirical work on intra-household decision making capture empowerment through bargaining weights given to individual preferences, and infer such weights from household consumption allocations. In this paper we test two key hypotheses underlying this work: first, that spousal influence is the same for all private consumption goods; and second, that women have pent up demand for pure agency. We use data from a survey and a novel laboratory experiment implemented with adult couples in Pakistan. We find that women’s influence on household decisions is decreasing in the importance of the decision. We find no evidence that women have pent up demand for agency. Instead, women are less willing to pay for agency when facing an unknown man. We interpret this evidence as suggesting that women in our study population have internalized gender norms, and that these norms regulate interactions between genders most strongly outside of the household. We also find little evidence, within our experimental setting, that willingness to pay for agency is affected by the instrumental value of agency.

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