He says, she says: Exploring patterns of spousal agreement in Bangladesh

Participation in household decisions and control over assets are often used as indicators of bargaining power. Yet spouses do not necessarily provide the same answers to questions about these topics. In their discussion paper “He says, she says: Exploring patterns of spousal agreement in Bangladesh”, authors Kate Ambler, Cheryl Doss, Caitlin Kieran, and Simone Passarelli examine differences in spouses’ answers to questions regarding who participates in decisions about household activities, who owns assets, and who decides to purchase assets.

Photo: ©Farha Khan/IFPRI, Flickr

Prior to this study, work in this area was limited to examining the relationship between agreement and a small number of health outcomes. This study takes a more comprehensive approach, examining decision making and asset ownership across a wide range of activities and assets, developing a meaningful typology of response categories, and examining correlations with a diverse set of outcomes that have been linked to women’s bargaining power. To analyze spousal concordance, authors use responses to survey questions about decision making and asset ownership designed to calculate two components of the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), a measurement of empowerment, agency, and inclusion of women in the agriculture sector.

Authors find that disagreement between spouses is substantial and systematic, with women more likely to report joint ownership or decision making and men more likely to report sole male ownership or decision making. Analysis of correlations between agreement and women’s well-being finds that agreement on joint decision making/ownership is generally positively associated with beneficial outcomes for women compared with agreement on sole male decision making/ownership. Cases of disagreement where women recognize their involvement but men do not are also positively associated with good outcomes for women, but often to a lesser extent than when men agree that women are involved.

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Ambler, Kate; Doss, Cheryl; Kieran, Caitlin; and Passarelli, Simone. 2017. He says, she says: Exploring patterns of spousal agreement in Bangladesh. IFPRI Discussion Paper 1616. Washington, D.C.: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). http://ebrary.ifpri.org/cdm/ref/collection/p15738coll2/id/131097