Making spouses cooperate in Ugandan agricultural households – Experimental evidence of distributional treatment effects

Els Lecoutere
IOB Working Paper 2018.06

This study investigates the impact of participatory intrahousehold decision-making, introduced through a randomly encouraged intensive coaching package and less intensive awareness raising couple seminars, in agricultural households in Uganda on intrahousehold cooperation and sharing behaviour measured in a lab-in-the-field experiment.

Both the intensive and less intensive treatment, as compared to not having exposure to  any of the interventions introducing participatory household decision-making, increased the likelihood of equilibrium behaviour as measured by the accuracy of wives’ expectations about their husbands’ contributions, respectively husbands’ expectations about their wives’ contributions, in voluntary contribution mechanism (VCM) games, on condition of allowing communication before the game, which mimicked intrahousehold communication stimulated in the intensive treatment. Husbands’ expectations about their wives’ offers in a dictator game, simultaneously played by husband and wife used to measure sharing behaviour, become more accurate as well.

An analysis of treatment effects across the distribution of husbands’ and wives’ contributions in the games confirmed trends that emerged in the analyses of average treatment effects and effects on the likelihood of opting for the most cooperative or most generous strategy. The impact of the treatments is largely positive in a second VCM game both among husbands and wives, but negative in a first VCM game - which is explained by cautious initial strategies by spouses, except by intensively treated cooperative types of husbands. The treatments generally makes women less generous in the sharing game but men more generous.

The analysis of distributional treatment effects revealed that different types of husbands and wives respond differently to treatments, which calls for well targeted approaches that can induce virtuous circles of increasing cooperation and equitable sharing. More particularly, the intensive versus the less intensive treatment in combination with communication stimulates cooperation in the second VCM game and generous sharing among cooperative - generous - types of men and women. Among less generous types of women the impact on generosity is negative. However, the intensive versus the less intensive treatment makes men of the less cooperative type more cooperative, in the absence of communication, which is the only positive impact observed among the less cooperatively-minded, and an important achievement of the intervention.

The intensive and less intensive treatment versus no exposure, in combination with communication, have positive treatment effects on generosity among generous types of men; the intensive treatment on cooperation among cooperative types of women. In contrast, among the less cooperative/generous type of men the treatments reduce cooperation and generosity; and among the less generous type of women generosity.

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