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


  • I would like to thank Naila Kabeer, Duncan Foley, Ruth Castel-Branco and particularly Ann Whitehead for very helpful comments on an earlier draft of this contribution.


Feminist research has convincingly shown that an increase in household income does not necessarily lead to improvement in the well-being of all members of the household. More questionable is the policy conclusion often drawn from this research for rural Africa: redressing gender imbalance in control of productive resources will significantly reduce poverty. This contribution argues that the evidence and analysis presented by two studies repeatedly cited to show that gender inequality is inefficient are problematic. It is mythical to suggest that tinkering with women's market position by exchanging unequal collective rights to productive resources for individual ones will decisively reduce rural poverty in Africa. That will depend on the restructuring of long-term and deeply unequal processes of integration in the market, not on a firmer insertion of women within existing patterns of individualization and commodification of productive resources.