Is female empowerment always good for child welfare?

Last registered on October 21, 2015


Trial Information

General Information

Is female empowerment always good for child welfare?
Initial registration date
July 12, 2015

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
July 12, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.

Last updated
October 21, 2015, 1:55 AM EDT

Last updated is the most recent time when changes to the trial's registration were published.


Primary Investigator

Norwegian School of Economics

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Norwegian School of Economics

Additional Trial Information

Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Female empowerment and child welfare are important issues in today's development policies. For example, in 2009-10, 31\% of total bilateral aid by the OECD Development Assistance Committee's members were in support of gender equality, and approximately 10\% were in support of education (OECD, 2012). The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize 2014 to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzay "…for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education" also emphasizes the importance of these two issues. It is generally assumed that by targeting women, their children will benefit. However, the evidence in the literature is mixed. In this project, we want to contribute to the literature by studying whether women invest more in their children than men do and what the potential reasons for this might be.

The research questions are the following:
1. Is child welfare influenced by whether additional resources to the household are allocated to women or men?
2. What are the underlying mechanisms determining resources spent on children in the household?

The results from the study will provide insights on both research questions and inform the development policy debate about how to strengthen child welfare. They will also contribute to the economic theoretical literature on household models.

Concerning the first research question, many studies have shown that there is a relationship between gender and household expenditures. To illustrate, in Kenya and Malawi, Kennedy and Peters (1992) find that female-headed households spend a larger share of total income on food and a smaller share on alcohol compared to male-headed households. Similarly, Hoddinott and Haddad (1995) use data from Côte d'Ivoire and find that when the female income share in the household is increased, the share of household income spent on food increases, and the share spent on alcohol and cigarettes decreases.

The assumption that women spend more resources on their children than men leads us to the second research question: What are the mechanisms determining the amount of resources spent on children? First, women and men may have different preferences. If women assign a higher weight to children's welfare in their utility function, they will allocate more resources to their children than men. Similarly, if women are more patient than men are, they will be more willing to invest in their children as this investment yields a long-term return. On the other hand, if women are more risk averse than men, they will be less willing to invest in their children than men as this investment is risky. Second, the difference might be due to bargaining power. Assume that women and men care equally much about their children. In a situation where the men have all the bargaining power and hence make all the decisions, they have to bear all the costs of investing in their children, whereas both adults in the household benefit. Increasing female bargaining power implies that the cost of investing in the child is split between the two adults, and the benefit remains the same for both. In this case, investment in children would increase (Basu, 2006).

The theoretical framework of this project derives from household models. In the literature, household models are divided into two categories; unitary and non-unitary household models. In unitary household models, the household is considered as one unit maximizing a single utility function (Lundberg and Pollak, 1996. As this model has several limitations, we will focus on non-unitary household models. In particular, one cooperative model and one non-cooperative model. The cooperative model we use is the collective household model developed by Chiappori (1992) and Browning and Chiappori (1998). This approach relies on two assumptions; there exists a stable decision process in the household and this process leads to Pareto-efficient outcomes (Browning, Chiappori and Weiss, 2014). By using this framework, Basu (2006) finds that children in a household is less likely to work if the power structure is balanced. The non-cooperative household model used in this project is developed by Browning and Lechene (2001). In this approach, agents chose their strategies simultaneously and independently. Each individual act as an independent agent conditional on the action of the other. In other words, the individual maximizes his or her utility subject to his or her budget constraint taking into account the actions of his or her spouse. The solutions need not be Pareto efficient (in the sense that it may be possible to improve the utility of one of the spouses without reducing the utility of the other spouse). In this case, going from a situation in which the woman has no bargaining power to a situation in which the woman has some bargaining power, will decrease investments in children.

To answer the research questions, we have designed a lab experiment to be conducted in the field in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We have invited married couples with at least one child of primary school age to the lab in July and August 2015. The experiment will consist of three parts. In the first part we elicit time and risk preferences (incentivized choices) to study whether men and women have different preferences for investing in children. In the second part of the experiment, the participant will make an incentivized distributive choice. The choice they make is an allocation between themself, their spouse and their child (1/3 of participants make this decision on their own, 1/3 bargain over the decision with their spouse and 1/3 simply observes their spouse's choice). The idea here is to experimentally vary female bargaining power to investigate whether an increase in female bargaining power causally changes how much is invested in the child. In the third part of the experiment, the participants will answer four non-incentivized questions about the decision-making in their household. These questions are intended to measure bargaining power within the household. In addition, before starting the experiment, the participants will answer a set of standard background questions.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Ringdal, Charlotte and Ingrid Hoem Sjursen. 2015. "Is female empowerment always good for child welfare? ." AEA RCT Registry. October 21.
Former Citation
Ringdal, Charlotte and Ingrid Hoem Sjursen. 2015. "Is female empowerment always good for child welfare? ." AEA RCT Registry. October 21.
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Experimental Details


Couples are randomly assigned into one of three treatments. The purpose of the treatments is to exogenously vary experimental female bargaining power. The idea is that an increase in female bargaining power should increase investments in children.

We have three treatment.
* Treatment 1: Dictator male, the husband has all the experimental bargaining power.
* Treatment 2: Bargaining, the husband and wife has equal experimental bargaining power.
* Treatment 3: Dictator female, the wife has all the experimental bargaining power.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Investments in children
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
In the distributive phase, participants are asked to allocate Tsh 15,000 between themselves, their spouse and their child. We use the amount allocated to the child to indicate investments in children.

In addition to the main outcome variables, we elicit time and risk preferences. In addition, we ask questions about the decision-making in the household. These questions will aid our understanding of differences in investments in children between treatments.

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The present project uses a lab-in-the-field approach to collect experimental data. The experiment will be conducted in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in July and August 2015.

The target population is households with non-polygamous couples and at least one child in primary school. Couples have been recruited in the relatively poor neighborhood (ward) Kawe in the Kinondoni municipal, situated in the north-east of the region. There are six primary schools in the area. In June 2015 we distributed an invitation letter to the student's parents. The invitation letters ask parents interested in participating in the study to fill out a form and return it to the head teacher. These forms will be used by local research assistants to contact the parents before the experiment.

We aim to have 450 couples taking part in the experiment, with 150 in each of the three experimental groups.

Experimental Design Details
The sequence of events in the experiment is the following:
1. Randomization into treatment.
2. Background information is registered (including age, education, occupation, number of children, number of children in primary school and name and standard of each of the children in primary school).
3. Preference elicitation: we elicit time and risk preferences for all treatments.
4. Distributional phase: allocation of Tsh 15,000 between self, spouse and child (different treatments).
5. Survey questions: measure of external bargaining power.
6. Payment: participants are paid.
Randomization Method
Couples draw a card indicating treatment from a bag.
Randomization Unit
We randomize at the level of couples.
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
450 couples
Sample size: planned number of observations
450 couples
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
150 couples in each treatment
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
There are very few studies doing household experiments and, to our knowledge, none of them include children. To inform the power calculations, we therefore used typical standard deviations from the literature on dictator games. The planned sample size is powered to identify effects on investments in children between all three treatment groups. With the planned sample of 450 observations equally distributed between the three treatments we can defect sizes of 0.4 SD between treatments with a power of 93%.

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Analysis Plan

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Post Trial Information

Study Withdrawal

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Is the intervention completed?
Intervention Completion Date
July 28, 2015, 12:00 +00:00
Data Collection Complete
Data Collection Completion Date
July 28, 2015, 12:00 +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
287 couples
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
287 couples
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Male dictator: 184 Bargaining: 194 Female dictator: 196
Data Publication

Data Publication

Is public data available?

Program Files

Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials

Relevant Paper(s)

Reports & Other Materials