Household Bargaining in Egypt

The equal distribution of decision-making powers has been declared as a goal for development itself. Many crucial decisions that determine the future of a society are taken at the household level. We seek to elicit the willingness to implement revealed preferences within the household. A representative sample of 640~individuals residing in Cairo, Egypt, were confronted with the decision to donate from a joint income to the Egyptian Red Crescent. In a first step, subjects made donation decisions after being paired either with their spouses, or a randomly chosen participant from the same population. In a second step, subjects were asked anonymously to vote on how strongly they would like their donation preferences to be implemented; the decision of the subject with the higher indicated number was then realized for payment; ties were broke at random. Results show that married women matched with their spouse have significantly lower willingness to decide on a joint income with the partner, contrary to women matched with a randomly chosen participant. Elicited beliefs regarding the partner’s voting behavior show married women to behave in a way that is consistent with the expectations of the spouse and the general cultural setting persisting in Egypt. Results suggest that in the presence of prescribed social identities and well-defined gender roles, outcomes as expected by the standard bargaining models fail to prevail. Existing household bargaining models and policies are incomplete without taking into account the willingness of married women to participate in intra-household decision-making, a behavior that is to a large extent shaped by the existing cultural setting.