Global Poverty Research Group

Gender-bias in the intra-household allocation of educational expenditure

The research question

This project is addressing the issue of gender bias in India. This research measures the gender gap in educational expenditure in Indian households using the 1994 rural survey data from 33,000 households across 16 major states. It examines gender bias in educational expenditures both directly by inspecting individual level expenditures and also indirectly, using the household consumption based (Engel curve) methodology. The reliability of the indirect method has been called into question recently because it has generally failed to confirm bias even where it is known to exist. This failure may be to do with the aggregate nature of the data employed in the method. Since meals are prepared centrally within a household, the food consumption of each individual member is not easily isolated and measured. However, consumption of (or expenditure on) a good such as education is more readily measured since it is very individual-specific.

This paper seeks to find explanations for the Engel curve’s failure by exploiting a dataset that has educational expenditure information at the individual level and also, by aggregation, at the household level. It is found that in the basic education age groups, the discriminatory mechanism in education is via differential enrolment rates for boys and girls. Education expenditure conditional on enrolment is equal for boys and girls. The Engel curve method fails for two reasons. Firstly, it models a single equation for the two stage process. Second, even when we make individual and household level expenditure equations as similar as possible, the household level equation still fails to ‘pick up’ gender bias in about one third of the cases where the individual-level equation shows significant bias. The paper concludes that only individual based data can accurately capture the full extent of gender bias.

Relevant recent papers

Kingdon, G. “Where has all the bias gone? Detecting gender bias in the household allocation of education expenditure”, Working Paper CSAE WPS/2003-13, Centre for the Study of African Economies, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, October 2003.

See also:

Kingdon, G. “The Gender Gap in Educational Attainment in India:  How Much Can be Explained?”, Journal of Development Studies, 39, No. 2: 25-53, December, 2002.

Reseachers to contact for this project

Geeta Kingdon