THREE ESSAYS IN DEVELOPMENT ECONOMICS: PATTERNS AROUND MEN AND WOMEN'S WEALTH AND ASSET OWNERSHIP IN GHANA AND MALAWI
This dissertation consists of three essays in development economics that explore sex-disaggregated aspects around asset ownership and wealth in Ghana and Malawi. The first essay, GENDER DIFFERENCES IN RISK BEHAVIOR: AN ANALYSIS OF ASSET ALLOCATION DECISIONS IN GHANA, seeks to estimate gender differences in risk preferences based on asset allocation decisions of individuals within households in Ghana. To date, little is known about gender differences in risk preferences (as reflected in allocation decisions within households) outside the developed country context. Using a unique household level, sex-disaggregated data set from Ghana collected in 2010 this paper seeks to fill the gap in the literature by estimating risk aversion of individuals within the Ghanaian household. The study finds that women hold significantly fewer risky assets than men in absolute terms and as a proportion of their wealth. However, men and women in Ghana exhibit decreasing relative risk aversion (in terms of asset allocation) as wealth increases and nearly the entire difference between men and women's proportion of risky assets is due to the substantial wealth gap between men and women and not differences in risk preferences.Using the same data, the second essay, THE COVARIATES OF DIFFERENCES IN WEALTH HOLDINGS BETWEEN MARRIED MEN AND WOMEN IN GHANA, seeks to explore the determinants of the difference in the gross value of financial and physical assets held by married men and women within households in Ghana. This is the first study of its kind to investigate the composition of differences that play a role in the aggregated wealth gap between men and women within a developing country context. Using a technique proposed by Firpo et al. (2007; 2009) to decompose the components of the wealth gap at different quantiles, the study finds that gender differences in inheritance and educational attainment contribute to a substantial part of the explained wealth gap between married men and women in Ghana across the wealth distribution. For the 70th and 80th quantiles, the gender difference in labor income is significant and explains about one-fifth of the gender wealth gap. The third essay, MEN AND WOMEN'S ASSET OWNERSHIP AND HOUSEHOLD INCOME DIVERSIFICATION PATTERNS IN RURAL MALAWI, is a coauthored paper with Caren Grown and Hema Swaminathan. Using a unique data set with detailed information of household income sources and individual level information on land ownership, the paper examines how gender differences in land holdings are associated with different household income diversification patterns in rural Malawi in 1994-1995. The study finds that women's greater land holdings in married households increases the number of total income activities and non-agriculture activities controlling for the composition of the household and landholdings. This has important policy implications in that studies find a correlation between greater income diversification, usually in terms of total non-agricultural income activities, and household wellbeing.