|Intra-household Resource Allocation: Issues and Methods for Development Policy and Planning (UNU, 1990, 204 pages)|
BEATRICE LORGE ROGERS AND NINA P. SCHLOSSMAN
The underlying goal of economic development is to improve the welfare of disadvantaged people. The individual is the ultimate target of development efforts, be they undertaken at the household, community, or national level. A successful programme or policy improves human welfare. It benefits the intended target group and achieves the desired result without any unforeseen negative side-effects on other groups. Understanding current patterns of resource distribution and the factors which determine them is necessary in order to design programmes, effectively, as new projects or policies may alter the determining factors and thereby change the patterns of allocation.
The effects of projects on intra-household dynamics may be subtle and complex, but they are absolutely central to the successful outcome, and even to the successful implementation of development interventions. This is because development projects are based on certain assumptions about how households will behave in the face of the change they intend to bring about.
For example, a new technology which increases productivity may change the value of an individual's time, with consequences for the time spent on other tasks he or she performs. An immunization programme which alters the probabilities of child survival may change the strategies by which households decide to invest in certain children. A paved road may open new opportunities for wage employment, altering the opportunity cost of time devoted to unpaid household production.
Understanding intra-household decision-making is important in order to predict who in the household is likely to gain and lose (in both the short and long run) as a result of an intervention. Projects which place unacceptable burdens on some individuals without compensation may find themselves compromised by lack of participation. Projects which attempt to target consumption goods to particular household members often find that the household's own preferences in allocation supersede those of the programme planners.
The papers in this volume describe the wide variety of linkages between programme interventions and individual outcomes. They spell out a set of issues which, in turn, suggest the need for obtaining information on some specific variables, including house hold composition, income and assets, task allocation and time use, and individual consumption and welfare. Neither income, capital, nor the time of given members is necessarily interchangeable with that of other household members, so that these variables need to be measured for each individual.
The papers discuss alternative approaches to collecting data on the internal processes by which households allocate resources and responsibilities among their members. The authors make it clear that both information gleaned from secondary sources and primary data obtained using a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods are needed to investigate intra-household processes. None of these methods is novel, although their application to household dynamics is relatively untried. The important message is that the combination of methods is stronger than any single methodological approach, because analysis of the household draws on the concepts of a variety of disciplines.
Many measurement problems have not been satisfactorily resolved. The household and its internal dynamics have only relatively recently become a focus for research, and one result of this work has been to identify new areas of investigation, requiring the development of new measurement techniques.
The search for inexpensive and quick methods of measurement has not always been successful, and in many cases short-cuts simply cannot be taken. Collecting data on individuals is necessarily more time-consuming than collecting aggregate data. It makes sense to seek proxy variables and easily accessible indicators for some of the more difficult-to-measure concepts in household-level studies, but it will not always be possible to find them.
These papers taken together clearly demonstrate that information on intra-household allocation and its determinants is central to effective development planning. Including this level of analysis in the planning process certainly requires more resources, both in time and money. But the return on these additional costs should be more than compensated by the greater likelihood of project success.