A Home Divided: Women and Income in the Third World

A Home Divided: Women and Income in the Third World

A Home Divided: Women and Income in the Third World

A Home Divided: Women and Income in the Third World


A challenge to economic theories that view the household as a harmonious unit with a single decision-maker, this book shows that in the Third World the household is an arena of conflict marked by inequality and negotiation over income and expenditures. Dwyer and Bruce's introduction is followed by eleven field studies: four in Asia, four in Africa and the Middle East, and three in the Caribbean and Central America. These twelve essays, by economists, sociologists, anthropologists and demographers provide a cogent analysis of household structure dynamics and women's bargaining context. This book will be of interest not only to specialists in gender studies but also to ethnologists and other social scientists.


Judith Bruce and Daisy Dwyer

Purpose and Overview

This volume deals with inequality and negotiation among intimates within the household unit. We view the intrahousehold distributional process and its short-term and long-term consequences through the eyes of adult women, usually mothers and workers in marital diads. the intimates with whom these women covertly or overtly negotiate are primarily husbands, but depending upon the cultural setting they may be common-law partners, parents, in-laws, patriarchs of their own or other lineages, siblings, and children. As this volume's title denotes, the currency on which we focus most closely is income. Yet there are other valued but less negotiable currencies--the bearing of children, education and training, social networking, household-based production--that determine women's position in the family and wider society. This Introduction, and indeed most of the articles contained in this volume, view women as strategic actors--whether or not they are conscious of this role--in defending or expanding their own life prospects, and often, by extension, those of their children. the issue of perception is crucial throughout the volume. How women see themselves and value what they do may in part determine the outcomes they attain.

The women in this series of papers pursue personal goals, or simple survival, in the context of stronger forces: segmented and discriminatory labor markets for which they are ill prepared; powerful family systems that use them as instruments to patriarchal or kinship ends; discriminatory customs and laws surrounding divorce and widowhood; inheritance systems that deprive them outright of assets or undermine their economic rights; and norms that confine women's roles to production and the nurturing of dependents, sometimes at the cost of all else.

We learn that women's earned income and their ability to stretch this and other resources is vital to the survival of many households. We find that men's and women's economic contributions tend to be differentially valued by others and self, a circumstance that generally works to a woman's disadvantage. We see that just as men and women differ in their . . .

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