Global Resources

A Bigger Piece of a Very Small Pie: Intrahousehold Resource Allocation and Poverty Reduction in Africa

Author: B. O'Laughlin
Publisher: BRIDGE
Publication Date: Jun 2003
Much research, some by feminists, shows that an increase in household income does not necessarily improve the well-being of all members of the household. Furthermore, research done in rural Africa finds that gender inequality is inefficient and bad for economic growth. The policy conclusion often drawn is that the best way to reduce poverty is to redress gender imbalance in control of assets in poor households. This paper challenges these findings analysing two cases which are repeatedly used as evidence for the link between gender inequality and low productivity in agriculture: Jones's work in northern Cameroon and Udry's work in Burkina Faso. It argues that these fail to demonstrate that gender inequality is inefficient. These studies are based on the unsound assumptions that maximising income and individualising assets necessarily reduces poverty. Instead of reducing poverty, processes of individualisation and commodification have increased economic differences between households, and deepened the vulnerability and lengthened work hours for women in poor households.