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View the document Expenditure on shelter
View the document Expenditure on food
View the document The stories behind the figures
View the document How to spend a windfall
View the document The stories behind the windfall figures
View the document Differences between men and women in money management
View the document Spending on entertainment
View the document Recommendations

Expenditure

When the low-income household survey data were analysed, expenditure patterns were examined in some depth whereas income levels were given very little attention. Studies of household income have proved notoriously unreliable in the Jamaican context, as documented by Miller and Stone ( 1985). It was recognized at a very early stage that the methodology required to determine income levels reliably was beyond the scope of the research project and that it would be better to accept this than to include information that might well be misleading. A focus was therefore placed on determining expenditure patterns including expenditure on savings.

It should be noted that the Jamaican dollar is tied to the United States dollar and at the time of the survey had a value of $J5.50 = $US1.00.

Of the households surveyed, 80 per cent had a total expenditure of less that $350 a week (equivalent to the average urban household income). However, the amount that different households spent varied, as did their choices as to what to spend it on. The needs of children played a particularly significant part in determining the expenditure patterns of female heads of household. This was particularly evident in the focus on expenditure related to food and education. Asset levels (which reflect past expenditure patterns and investments) varied between households as did choices as to what would be done should a windfall sum of money become available to them.

 

Expenditure on shelter

Overall the survey found that household expenditure on shelter was remarkably low, with three quarters of the sample surveyed spending $25 or less a week. Half the households were paying nothing at all either because they were owners or because they were living free or squatting. However female heads of household proved to be the least likely to be spending nothing (see table 6).

Table 6. Percentage of different types of household by expenditure per week on shelter

Type of household

Amount spend per week on shelter

 

Nothing

$1 -$25

$26-$50

$51 -$100

$100

Female-headed

40.6

27.6

9.9

9.4

0.3

Male-headed

46.9

25.9

13.6

9.9

3.7

Joint-headed

54.0

24.4

7.0

8.4

5.6

Overall

50.0

20.0

9.4

9.0

5.6

In general female-headed households appeared to be paying more for shelter than joint-headed households. This is probably a reflection of the higher rates at which they appear in the rental market.

 

Expenditure on food

For all households food proved to be the largest and most important item of expenditure.

The percentage of female-headed households spending more that $100 on food was smaller than in the case of joint-headed-households, probably reflecting a generally lower income level in female-headed households. It should be noted that Miller and Stone found that female-headed households in their sample did not obey Engels' Law which states that "expenditure shares for food decline with rising levels of income/expenditure." In the case of female-headed households Miller and Stone found that expenditure shares on food continued to rise as income levels rose. Food expenditure patterns are summarized in table 7.

Table 7. Percentage of different types of household by weekly expenditure on food

Type of household

Amount spent weekly on food

 

$ 1 -$25

$26-$50

$51-$100

$100+

Female-headed

2.7

9.4

28.5

59.4

Male-headed

5.8

8.7

34.0

51.5

Joint-headed

2.7

5.0

25.3

67.0

Overall

3.2

7.4

28.1

61.3

 

Another important aspect of expenditure patterns on food relates to the frequency of expenditure. Lack of cash and lack of refrigeration are two factors that affect whether a household buys food on a daily or weekly basis for instance. The poorer a person is the more likely it is that he or she will small purchases on a daily basis. In the stories below this is illustrated by Auntie and Icie in particular.

Hunger

Just under a quarter of female-headed households (23. 4 per cent) reported that their children had gone to bed hungry in the last month as opposed to 12.0 per cent for male-headed and 12.5 per cent for joint headed households respectively.

Despite the fact that the majority of the survey sample should have proved eligible for food stamps less that 20 per cent of households had actually benefited from these. Male-headed households were the least likely to have benefited with only 9.6 per cent receiving stamps; 19.5 per cent of female-headed households received the benefit as opposed to 21.2 per cent of joint-headed households. Respondents who were not receiving food stamps were asked why not. Table 8 summarizes their responses.

Table 8. Percentage Or different types Or household by reason given for not receiving food stamps

Reasons for not getting stamps

Type of household

 

Female-headed

Male-headed

Joint-headed

Overall

Lack of knowledge/content

26

16

18

21

Lack of interest

33

so

38

38

Believes not necessary or not qualified

27

20

30

28

Too political/unfair

5

2

2

3

Tried but failed/stopped

9

3

19

9

Total

100

100

100

99

The relatively high percentage of women who reported a lack of knowledge or lack of contact with relevant authorities indicates that female heads of household have information needs that are not currently being met.

Of those who had, at any time, received food stamps, 25 per cent of female-headed households were no longer doing so compared with 29 per cent of male-headed households and 29 per cent of joint-headed households.

 

The stories behind the figures

Auntie

Auntie spends nearly $100 a week on food but rarely eats meat as she has such a regular supply of fish. However, lunch money for the children costs $15 a week while the school is in session.

One of the biggest expenses for the household is the ice used to keep the fish fresh which costs $77 a week. Another expense arises from the fact that they must travel two-and-a-half miles to obtain fresh water which has to be carried back on a minibus. This process costs at least $30 a week.

When things are going reasonably well Auntie can make $200 or more a week from her fish vending. She buys the fish for $40 a weight (6 lb) and sells for $9 a pound. The price is really determined by the fishermen. If vendors at the Causeway do not buy the fish the fishermen simply take them to Greenwich Farm.

When the money is good she finds that she spends the extra on more food and goes to the downtown market to make her purchases. She only does this when she has enough money. Otherwise she uses the 'one one" small shops that people run all along the beach and which provide all the basic essential like flour, rice and sugar.

Carmen

"No worry talk about the cost of living - it gone way above the sky. When you carry a hundred dollars to go to the supermarket it come like you carry one dollar. When you go to the supermarket you see the things but no money to buy it, and even if you can buy it you don't know what you buy. My spending is more than my earning.

Carmen's main concern is food. She is not really concerned about clothes.

"When I get a piece of clothes I know how to care it. I don't dress up every day. What I judge is just what I judge and what I dress is just what I dress. So clothes is not really the problem. You can wear one for three year but you have to eat more than that."

Deula

"Sometimes you don't even know how much you spend a week, because if I go to supermarket with two hundred dollars there is no change to come back. I get bananas and coco from my field until Gilbert come along and tek down the bananas.

"Kerosene oil - for a week I end up with about three gallons twelve dollars. I don't spend bus fare for the children because they can walk to school and when I'm going to my field now it only costs me four dollars.

"I don't spend a lot for medical expenses. I don't spend a lot on clothing because they come from abroad. They send down maybe one time or two time a year and I get a barrel."

Icie

"Me go to the shop and buy what I can buy. I got food stamps for the mental boy and 1 got one for me and father but it comes every two or three months and I only get $20 but it stay (takes) too long. You have to have the food for them to eat every day. I don't eat often - I have a bad stomach. We pay $130 per month for water.

"How much money do I spend a week on food? You can't talk about week - you have to say every day, daily, today. You have to buy food every day. You may have $20 to spend but you don't have that to spend every day.

"Food is the most important thing because you have to find food every day because you can't live without food. I pay $45 a year taxes. We pay light bill - $130 a month. My husband doesn't go out. I don't go out, so it's only bus fares for school. $10, $5, $5 and $3 each day for the children to go to school.

"The way things go now we have to stop raise fowl. We used to raise a lot of fowl but I can't bother with it. The feed too expensive and I don't have money to do that. I plant up the yard but you can't plant vegetables because of the earthworm.

Letty

She spends about $80 a week on food and $120 a month on light. Water costs about $100 a month but that is for all the units in her complex.

Marcia

"I spend half of my salary on food each week. I have to send something to the country. Sometime I spend up to sixty, seventy. Water is included in the rent which is $260 a month. Gas (cooking) we share. I pay $40. Transportation is $1.60 a day and sometimes I get a drive. I work six days a week. I make uniforms to cut down on the clothes so it's only clothes to go out and clothes for the children that I really pay for. 1 will buy material and ask someone to sew them.

"Medical expenses is the part that is beating me because I don't have insurance.

"Food is the most important thing because without food you don't have any strength to work. You have to eat proper food to get along because most of the time if I just leave here and have a cup of tea when I reach work by 12 o'clock I'm weak, and I don't have any energy. So food is the most important but I don't know why food have to be so expensive."

Megan

Between her sister and herself they bring home about $200 a week. Food costs nearly $100 a week. School fees and lunch for the children costs about $20 a week but they get clothes from relatives abroad and sometimes the local politician brings clothes at Christmas. They sometimes get charity clothes from "charitable organizations" and received quite a lot of help in 1977 after the fire that burnt out their previous house.

When they need to, the family uses a health clinic nearby. They have to pay a fee of $5.00 for each visit, a donation of $0.50 and $5.00 for medicine if it is available.

Pam

Pam pays $150 a month for the two rooms that her family uses. She takes home $150 a week after tax. Between herself and her mother they spend about $150 a week on food which is their major expense. Transport and lunch money come to $15.50 a day when the children are in school but sometimes one of the children walks to save on the expense. They use a mixture of coal and gas to cook and also have a kerosene stove as a standby.

Pansy

About half of her income of $800 per month goes on food which is by far her greatest expense. She pays $150 a month for the mortgage, $30 a month for water and $50 a week for lunch money for her youngest son. Pansy also has to pay a book fee of $300 a term for him.

She bought her verandah chairs on hire purchase but otherwise has no loans apart from the mortgage. One of the benefits of her job is that she gets relatively cheap health insurance so she doesn't have to worry too much about medical bills.

Every two weeks Pansy sends $40 to her mother in the country.

Verona

Charcoal cost $15.00 a bag and lasts about three nights. The family's major expense however is food which amounts to nearly $ 100 a week. The shop costs about $ l 75 a week to stock.

 

How to spend a windfall

One of the most revealing questions that was asked in the low-income household survey related to the manner in which respondents would spend windfall sums of $J1000, $J5000, and sometimes $J 10,000 if they were to receive them. What was interesting was to identify the priorities that low-income households applied when decisions had to be made concerning the most beneficial use of scarce cash resources. The answers received revealed some interesting differences between different kinds of heads of household. These are summarized in table 9.

Female heads of household were the least likely to make a choice relating to housing Improvement and the most likely to make a choice concerning an informal vending activity for purposes of income-generation. Some 53.1 per cent of female heads of household indicated that they would spend the money on income-generating activities focused on informal selling, compared with only 31.9 per cent of joint heads of household. This reflects the strong priority that female heads of household place on generating Income prior to committing themselves to consumption expenditures.

Table 9. Percentage of different types of household by choice Or expenditure of windfall of $3000

Type of expenditure

Type of household

 

Female-headed

Male-headed

Joint-headed

Total

Informal sales, higgling, food vending

53

20

32

40

Improving housing

15

20

24

20

condition

       

Buy land or house

2

0

3

2

Shop. Restaurant. bar services

8

7

12

10

Savings

0

8

8

7

Livestock. fishing. farming

3

10

7

6

Immediate expenses - debt. sickness. Schooling

2

10

6

5

Buy means of transport or air ticket

4

12

1

4

Household items

2

3

3

3

Food

3

0

1

2

Dressmaking/ tailoring

2

3

0

1

Manufacturing furniture/crafts

0

1

1

1

Leisure - church. hobbies

0

1

0

0

Total

100

101

98

101

 

Just over 70 per cent of female heads of household indicated a preference for income-related expenditure, compared with 58 per cent of male heads and 53 per cent of joint heads. As Carmen said when referring to how to spend a windfall. "You have to spin it over, wash it- (i.e., make it earn more money rapidly).

Again, 15 per cent of female heads of household indicated that they would spend the money on improving their housing condition, compared with 19.6 per cent of male heads of households and 24.2 per cent of joint heads of households.

 

The stories behind the windfall figures

Auntie

If Auntie got $1000 she would spend half of it on purchasing fish and save the other half.

If she got $5000 she would spend it on going abroad to buy goods which she could sell when she came back. She would also buy a couple of goats and build a pen so that she could sell goat meat as well as fish. She would also buy some furniture - a bed and two tables.

Carmen

$5000 - "First of all I would have to finish where I want to be living."

$10,000 - "Well, you have to turn your hand on it. You couldn't just tek it and spend it. You have to spin it over. wash it."

Deula

$5000- 1 would add another room. Two rooms is still small for me. $ 10,000 would put me straight, in like putting on a room and a kitchen because I intend putting on even a little verandah. I intend getting animals. I used to have goats and chickens but I sell them out. A person catch at every little thing. But trying to move out of where I was, out of rent, to build this I had to do a little thing like that and start all over again. '

Icie

"If I got $1000 I would have to see that the children got uniform and shoes to get to school. If I got $50001 would fix Up the roof."

Letty

If she got $ 1000 she would use it to pay off a "terrible" water bill she has. If she got $5000 she would do the same thing but also buy some food, fix the gate, put rails on the steps up to the house and put the balance in the bank.

Marcia

$1000 - "To get a little shop first thing. I would have to get out of the furnished room and get somewhere to live and start a thing and build up my clientele."

"$5000, oh my God, you saying something I will have to try and get a shop, man, and go in it with somebody that we could pay the rent and thing like that."

Megan

If Megan got $1000 she would begin a dry-goods business. She would like to get a stall in the Arcade and would like to specialize in selling "raw cloth" rather than finished goods.

If she got $5000 she would expand her house so that her daughters could get a room of their own. They sleep on the floor at the moment. She thinks the money might stretch to build a proper toilet as well as some of it going into the dry-goods business.

Pam

If she had a windfall of $1000 she would spend it on clothes for herself and the children. If she had $5000 she'd buy the bed she wants and save the rest.

Verona

If she had $1000 she would spend it on improving the shop. If she had $5000 she would also make some improvements to the house. She would fix the zinc so that it didn't leak and put in some new boards to replace the ones that have been eaten out by termites.

 

Differences between men and women in money management

Women often commented on the differences they perceived in the way in which men and women handle the money they have to spend.

Carmen

"Are women better money managers than men? But of course, because when the women get the ten cent them know how to cut It and when a man not working it is easier for a woman to pick up a job more than a man because a man will come now and say they not working. A woman will get a dollar and make themselves be a millionaire. Because, tek for instance now, if a man come in now and give you $40 and you think about it and you say 'Bwoy, this na really any use, you know.' But then you take $20 and you say I'm going to buy two cigarette, two orange and two ripe banana and sell it and yu can mek it go on growing. Yu might have the twenty dollar but when yu reach it make forty dollar. Instead of using the first forty dollar the woman take the twenty dollar and make a profit and the thing continue to keep growing. That's how women in this country live today."

Marcia

"Women spend money a thousand time better than the men because if man go out there and see a hand of banana for six dollars they just going to go and buy it. Bwoy, if you have a hundred dollars it have to buy banana, it have to buy flour it have to buy every little ting. It have to buy soap. You going to say 'The banana it six dollars? No sir I can't buy that.' I just pass it down there. Me say 'Why you can't take off something? Four dollar not six.' But the man im just gwan buy and go bout im business and na bother to cry down no prices so you find a woman have to think and cut and budget out her pay when she get it. The men smoke and they drink and most of them gamble. As for me, all I have to think about when I get my pay is my children."

Investment in assets

Female-headed households show considerably less evidence of investment in domestic assets than joint-headed households except in the case of beds where the two kinds of household show little difference. Female-headed households proved more likely to have sound systems, fans, dressers and sewing machines than male-headed households but apart from these items male- and joint-headed households showed evidence of greater asset expenditure. In the case of televisions. refrigerators and radios, the difference between female heads and joint heads was particularly marked.

These differences are significant because they not only indicate that female-headed households are experiencing lower standards of living than joint-headed households, but the low level of asset ownership among female heads of household limits their potential capacity for credit leverage.

Letty

Her major investments have been a television set, a refrigerator, a dining-room set, a bedroom set, a gas cooker, and a living room set.

Marcia

Just a hair dryer.

Megan

She has invested in a bed, a fan and a radio. Her sister has a refrigerator which does not work and a gas cooker which they use when they can afford to buy a cylinder of gas.

Pansy

Her main assets are: a television, a refrigerator, a stove, six beds, a dresser, a kitchen sink and a new toilet bowl. She also has land in the country. She used to lease the land to a man but he stopped paying so she "ran him off" and is now looking for a new tenant.

Verona

Her major investments include a freezer, a television set, a buffet and a living room set.

 

Spending on entertainment

Each of the women interviewed in depth was asked to talk about her expenditure on entertainment. Their responses reveal the tight patterns of their expenditure and the energy that they have to put in to simply keeping the household going.

Carmen

"Entertain? Well, me love, we don't have no enjoyment. First of all, living without someone to cope and guide them there is no way you can have enjoyment because the time the children should be having enjoyment with them you have to think how to work, how they going to eat food tomorrow morning, how them going to wear clothes. So by the time you supposed to have enjoyment with them you tired."

Deula

"Entertainment? The children they entertain me a lot. I don't go out a lot. The children take a lot and I decide to really put in a lot with them. So all we do, we sit down and sometimes we play dominoes or read Bible stories, quote Scriptures or sing any little foolishness. They are the one who mostly go out and come in with the new style of rhythm and they come inside and we Deejay, according to them."

Icie

"I have a television for entertainment. We can't go out - too much worries. Sometimes the children go out but they don't stay out late."

Letty

Doesn't go out very much apart from to church.

 

Recommendations

1. Existing levels of expenditure on shelter should be carefully determined before public sector plans based on shelter investment by low-income households are made.

2. The relative benefits of food and shelter subsidies should be carefully weighed in the designing of interventions seeking to benefit low-income households in general and female-headed households in particular. Further research should be carried out on this question.

3. The investment priorities of low-income households should be researched prior to any assumptions being made by planners concerning the relative merit of direct investment in shelter by these households. For the poorest households improvement in income status has a higher priority than improvement in shelter status. Indeed improvement in income status is usually seen as the only way in which shelter can be upgraded in the long term. These priorities are particularly characteristic of female-headed households and should be incorporated into strategies aimed at upgrading low-income shelter.

4. Given that female heads of household in particular tend to prioritize expenditure on income-generating activities over expenditure on shelter it might appear logical to exclude such households from programmes focusing on direct shelter investment. However, the fact that the shelter situation of many female heads of household (particularly those that are renters) contributes directly to their poverty suggests that such a move would make it even more difficult for these households to escape the poverty trap in which they find themselves. Solutions that integrate income generation and shelter support are likely to be the solutions that will have the most positive impact and should receive much greater attention from both the public and voluntary sectors.

5. Information on benefits such as food stamps should be made available to female heads of household in a more effective manner, by means of appropriate media use (e.g., using radio programmes that are most popular with low-income women), and through churches, women's clubs and so on.