Poster Paper: Food Aid and Household Decision-Making

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Hyun Ju Kim, George Mason University

This research proposes to analyze impacts of different food transfer modalities, in-kind and cash, on household welfare via the channel of women’s empowerment. Specifically, the focus is whether one scheme of food transfer enhances women’s bargaining power than another, leading to better household outcomes.

Women’s empowerment has become one of the critical research topics in development economics, both as a means and as a goal of development achievement. In an effort to enhance women’s empowerment, cash transfer programs are widely implemented as opposed to the traditional in-kind food subsidies such as Progresa, which started in 1997 in Mexico and adopted to mored than 29 developing countries. The cash transfer programs targeting women are qualitatively found to be positive in ameliorating women’s self-esteem and sense of independence. But is there a clear link between cash transfer and women’s empowerment which leads to better household welfare as opposed to other transfer modalities? In the literature, quantitative evidence shows mixed results depending on the determinants of women’s empowerment that empirical studies use. In the case of Progresa, Adato et al. (2000) find women are more likely to make their own decisions about the use of the additional cash and they are less likely to leave the spending decision to their husbands using wife’s human capital variables such as levels of education, work experience before the marriage, and ability to speak Spanish. On the other hand, Attanasio and Lechene (2002) find that higher share of income by wife is associated with greater decision-making power and that the Progresa income had a small but significant effect on shifting from decisions solely made by husbands to decisions jointly made by couples across several categories of household decisions.

In order to clearly understand the mechanism of women-targeting cash transfer programs as a path way to enhance household welfare, this study takes two steps of analysis. The first phase examines the link between cash transfers and women’s bargaining power by testing the indicators of women’s empowerment used in the literature. These include i) women’s share of the household income, ii) asset ownership (agricultural land, livestock, and non-farm business, and iii) human capital measured by level of education. With the significant measures from the first step, the second part of the analysis estimates the relative effects of the two food aid schemes, namely cash vs in-kind, when higher bargaining power of women is present within the household by introducing interaction terms between bargaining power and cash transfer. In doing so, this study employs the fixed effects model and uses the Ethiopian Socioeconomic Surveys (ESS) jointly collected by the Ethiopian government and the World Bank, which are comprised of three-wave longitudinal household surveys from 2011 to 2016. If this study finds the process significant, the results may imply targeting women in social transfer programs actually is supported by empirical evidence and suggest an appropriate policy instrument of precisely targeting women’s bargaining power.