Headship and Poverty in Africa

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Standard welfare comparisons between female-headed households (FHHs) and male-headed households (MHHs) have largely ignored two confounding factors: marital status (affecting access to assets and markets) and heterogeneity in household demographics (with bearing on economies of scale in consumption). Both influence welfare and are correlated with sex of headship. As judged by the usual per capita welfare measures, FHHs have lower poverty rates than MHHs in Africa. However, even a modest adjustment for economies of scale in consumption changes the poverty comparisons, with FHHs faring significantly worse overall in East, Central, and Southern Africa. Marital status also matters: the households of female heads are poorer than MHHs except when the female head is married. Taking the head’s marital status and the household’s demographics into account is critical to the association between female headship and welfare outcomes.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalWorld Bank Economic Review
Early online date29 Jan 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jan 2021