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close this bookIntra-household Resource Allocation: Issues and Methods for Development Policy and Planning (United Nations University, 1990, 204 p.)
close this folderIII. Measurement of key variables
View the document(introduction...)
View the document9. Multiple group membership and intra-household resource allocation
Open this folder and view contents10. Time-allocation research: the costs and benefits of alternative methods
View the document11. Use of emic units for time-use recall
Open this folder and view contents12. Data on food consumption by high-risk family members: its utility for identifying target households for food and nutrition programmes
View the document13. Determinants the ability of household members to adapt to social and economic changes



The conceptual frameworks presented in part I identified a series of issues related to the question of how a proposed policy change or new programme might alter intrahousehold processes, and whether these alterations might affect the success of the project and the welfare of individuals involved, directly or indirectly, in the change. The following set of questions was derived from these frameworks as a way of organizing data collection for the analysis of project effects on households and individuals:

  1. Who will participate in the project's activities?
  2. Will the project require or cause a change in household structure, composition, or function?
  3. Will the project change any person's access to productive resources or any person's control over what is produced (including control over income from his/her labour)?
  4. Will the project affect any person's wage rate (returns to labour) or the rate of return to assets under any person's control?
  5. Will the project require changes in the inventory of tasks performed by household members, or in the organization of tasks?
  6. Will the project change the allocation of tasks among members or the time use of members?
  7. Will the project change any person's access to consumption goods (food, health care, education, etc.) which affect individual welfare?

The relevance of these questions to programme planning is discussed in part 1. The need to answer the first question should be self-evident: participants must first be identified before their behaviour can be predicted. The question of household structure is important because of the potential for resistance to or rejection of the project (see Safilios-Rothschild's paper in this section), and because it may indicate how project benefits may be dispersed. Fundamental changes in the household may also cause emotional stress, as discussed by Messer in part I and by Safilios-Rothschild in this section. Moreover, a change in household composition, such as male outmigration or the physical separation of nuclear from extended family units, may increase the work burden on remaining members (by reducing the possibilities for sharing tasks), the income on which they can draw, the resources available to them, and the possibilities for support during an emergency.

The question of individual access to income and capital is key because of the potential harm that projects may do to certain categories of idividuals if this issue is not resolved equitably. Since different individuals have distinct priorities for the uses of income, and since the person who earns the income generally has a greater degree of control over its uses, altering access to income may also have significant consequences for the ways in which income is used (see the papers by Messer, Engle, Behrman, Bennett, and SafiliosRothschild for further discussion).

The task allocation and time-use questions are related. Time burdens may reduce or prevent participation in the project, or may interfere with the performance of other tasks equally important to the welfare of household members. For example, a project which imposes increased demands on a mother's time may reduce the amount of time she can spend in child care, including food preparation and feeding. This reasoning applies to all household members. An employment or schooling project, for instance, takes children's labour time away from the household, increasing the work burden of remaining members, and possibly reducing the total amount of time devoted to particular tasks.

Answering these questions requires information on a variety of specific key variables:

  1. Household structure and composition.
  2. Individual incomes (cash, in-kind).
  3. Individual and household asset ownership.
  4. Tasks performed and their allocation among members.
  5. Uses of individuals' time.
  6. Allocation of consumption goods among household members.

Some of these variables are best measured using a qualitative approach, while others are more suited to quantitative methods. The papers in part 11 addressed these methodological approaches, along with their advantages and limitations for identifying aspects of intra-household processes.

The papers in this section confront the problems of measuring the key variables and propose some solutions. In the first paper, Heywood discusses the difficulty of applying any single definition of the household, especially if it is not specific to the culture being studied. He suggests that, rather than attempt a fixed definition of the household, one should record information on individual members in such a way that the individual can be assigned to any of several differently defined and possibly overlapping household units, depending on the requirements of the specific analysis or project.

The other papers deal with the measurement of specific variables which are particularly critical to intra-household-level analysis. Time and income are the two major categories of resources available to a household. Measurement of income and of time use are therefore central to any study of resource allocation within households. Johnson reviews and discusses the pros and cons of time-use and task-allocation methods, and emphasizes the importance of standardizing measurement techniques. Reflecting the concerns expressed by Scrimshaw, he underlines the importance of validating recail or descriptive data with structured direct observation of time use. Zeitlin, in her paper, suggests that, when direct observation is not possible, there are ways of making recall data more reliable by incorporating local perceptions of time and its measurement. These papers together confirm the importance of defining variables for measurement using both the outsider's (etic) and the local culture's (emic) perspectives, as discussed earlier by Messer.

The measurement of income and asset-ownership is not specifically addressed in these papers. Measurement of household income is treated in a variety of publications, but there are certain principles which are of particular importance to analysis at the intrahousehold level. First, Rosenzweig argues persuasively that income must be measured for the individual earner, and that wage rates as well as total earnings are important for assessing the relative value of household members' time. Because wage rates are a major determinant of resource allocation patterns, it is important to know what proportion of income is earned (and thus affects the value of time in all its uses), and what proportion is obtained from other sources, such as transfers or returns to wealth.

Jels paper stresses the importance of the timing and reliability of income as determinants of its use. It is important to know whether income is received weekly, daily, or seasonally, and whether it comes from steady employment or from irregular, occasional work. Messer and Engle in their conceptual frameworks, and Bennett and SafiliosRothschild in their papers, contend that both the size of an individual's economic contribution to the household and the degree of his/her economic independence are significant determinants of that person's access to household resources and his/her control over the consumption and allocation decisions of the household. This perception is based on the conflict-resolution model of household decision-making. It is not only earned income which affects an individual's degree of economic independence. Unearned income may also be attributable to a single individual in the household, as when a son sends remittances to one parent, or when one member of a couple receives transfers or access to productive resources from his/her natal family.

For intra-household analysis, income and assets should be associated with the individual responsible for them, if possible. Measurement of income is notoriously difficult, both because it is a sensitive subject about which respondents may be unwilling to talk, and because in many cases they may simply not know how much income they earn. For purposes of assessing the relative contributions of individuals within the household, approximate amounts are enough; absolute accuracy is not necessary.

Allocation of consumption goods is another category of information needed to assess the effects of development projects on individual household members. In this section, Pinstrup-Andersen and Garcia evaluate several measures of food consumption, and conclude that household-level food consumption information is a very poor proxy for individual consumption levels. Their results underscore the importance of individual-level data for the assessment of intra-household patterns. Food is in some ways the best indicator of allocation of consumption goods: consumption of health-care and educational services is conditional on a variety of factors, including service availability and perceived need. But all households at every economic level consume food, and food represents a critical element in human capital formation in addition to being a consumption item.

The final paper in this section deals with the measurement of a variable which is much harder to define, but no less important. We know that development interventions introduce changes in the economic and social environment that cause households to adapt in a variety of ways' reallocating tasks, responsibilities, roles, and access to consumption. In order to assess the probable effects of an intervention, planners would like to predict just how the reallocation will occur, who will gain and lose, and in what ways. Safilios-Rothschild addresses the question of how to predict the degree and direction of adaptation in households to a given project-induced change. She focuses on one particular aspect of household adaptation, the relative power of men and women, and suggests that households will accept the changes induced by development programmes readily if the changes do not visibly alter the distribution of power.

In this argument Safilios-Rothschild disagrees with Bennett and with Engle, who suggest that the visibility of a woman's economic contribution is precisely what enhances her decision-making power. However, she agrees with Rosenzweig that individual time-use may adapt more readily than a person's sense of power. This may be an indication of the phenomenon discussed by Engle, that behaviour changes more readily than attitudes, and that the traditional knowledge-attitudes-practices model should really start with behaviour change.

The papers in this section demonstrate that a focus on intra-household allocation, in both implementation and research, poses unique measurement questions, many of which have yet to be resolved. Some problems, such as defining the household, are simply intractable; the solution lies in redefining the objective. In the case of measuring food consumption and income, short-cut methods are not available; there is no way around the need to expend additional effort to get the information required for intra-household analysis. A meassage inherent in all these papers is that responsible planning involves addressing the measurement questions directly; the need for intra-household analysis, and its pay-off in terms of programme success, merit the extra effort.