Married Women's Resource Position and Household Food Expenditures in Cebu, Philippines

By Schmeer, Kammi K. | Journal of Marriage and Family, May 2005 | Go to article overview

Married Women's Resource Position and Household Food Expenditures in Cebu, Philippines


Schmeer, Kammi K., Journal of Marriage and Family


This study analyzes how married women use their access to and control over economic resources to increase household spending on food. Using data from Cebu, Philippines, where child malnutrition is high, this study finds that the more income women earn and control, the more households spend on food. Women's control over their income is particularly important for increasing food expenditures in the poorest households. In richer households, women who earn little of their own income also use spouse income transfers to increase food expenditures. The findings from this study suggest that in a developing country setting, improving women's economic status so that they earn and control more household resources can Increase household spending on goods that benefit children.

Key Words: food expenditures, gender inequality, intrahousehold resource allocation, Philippines.

Children's well-being is partially dependent upon parents providing them with adequate food, clothing, and shelter by directing household spending toward such goods. Research in developed and developing countries suggests that men and women have different spending preferences, with women (mothers), more than men (fathers), directing household spending toward goods that benefit their children. Because of gender inequalities, however, married women may not have sufficient power and control over resources to ensure that spending is in the needed areas. This is often the case in developing countries because women are generally less equal to men both within and outside of the household (World Bank, 2001). Women's control over economic resources has been theoretically and empirically linked to household spending on child welfare. Both researchers and policymakers are increasingly realizing the importance of putting economic resources in the hands of women, and that development efforts aiming to improve women's economic status through income earning, credit, or savings programs may have the added benefit of improving child welfare (World Bank, 2001).

This study expands the conceptualization and empirical findings related to how married women may affect child welfare spending by considering how multiple aspects of women's resource position affect food expenditures in the Philippines. Food spending in households with children is an important aspect of increasing child welfare in the Philippines because it is a relatively poor country with high rates of child malnutrition (World Bank, 2004). In this study, women's resource position is defined as their access to and control over economic resources and consists of the amount of income they earn, their control over spending that income, their receipt of spouse income transfers, and their control over shopping funds, in this case food money. This conceptualization of women's resource position provides two main contributions. First, it allows for a direct assessment of the importance of women's control over their income for increasing household welfare spending. Second, unlike past studies, I consider how women's control over resources obtained from within the household, specifically spouse income transfers and food money, may affect household welfare spending. This study, informs the development efforts in the Philippines as well as the body of empirical literature related to married women's power and household spending behavior.

BACKGROUND

This study explores women's resource position and household spending from a gendered household perspective. Sociological theories emphasize that gender norms and stratification systems create differences in women's and men's roles and responsibilities, resulting in husbands and wives having distinct interests, power, and spending preferences (Blumberg, 1988; Dwyer & Bruce, 1988; Ferree, 1990). In married-couple households with children, the traditional division of labor often leaves women in charge of childrearing, resulting in women prioritizing, more than men, spending on child welfare to support their social roles (Dwyer & Bruce).

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