Rethinking Female-Headed Households in India: Diversity of Household Structure, Contrasting Socioeconomic Status.

Thomas Licart , Université de Strasbourg

In India, Female Headed Households (FHH) have been a major concern for both researchers and policy makers due to persistent gender inequality. Although their general economic condition is now well documented, little attention has been paid to their household structure despite its close link to the standard of living. The objective of this paper is to analyze the situation of Female-Headed Households in India in the light of their living arrangement. Based on data from the fourth round of the National Family and Health survey (2015–2016), we use a household classification to show the socioeconomic and demographic heterogeneity of FHH. Then, we compare FHH economic situation with their male counterpart by controlling the household structure. Gender gap is narrowing considerably. Further analysis shows that much of the relation between poverty and FHH is due to their specific demographic and household structure. More than an economic measure, FHH is also an indicator of social preferences. In a final analysis, we examine the factors leading to the choice of household head when a mother lives without a husband but with her married son. Thus, we confront two forms of authority: parenthood and patriarchy. We show that wealthier and better educated households favor the mother as head of the household while land ownership, ageing and widowhood give more power to the son.

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 Presented in Session P1. Poster Session Fertility, Family and the Life Course