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Female-Headed Households and Living Conditions in Latin America

Chia Liu, Albert Esteve and Rocío Treviño

World Development, 2017, vol. 90, issue C, 311-328

Abstract: This study investigates the rise in female headship in Latin America and its relationship with changing living arrangements and household living conditions. Understanding the family situation of the household head is essential in assessing living conditions in the region of Latin America. We answer two main questions: first, how have the increase of union instability influenced trends in female headship? Second, are female-headed households in poorer living conditions than male-headed households? We use Integrated Public Use Microdata Series-International (IPUMS-I) census microdata for 14 Latin American countries, focusing on women aged 35 and 44 from 1970 to the present day. Our study finds that in most countries, women are increasingly likely to head households regardless of union status. The union status, more so than the sex of the household head, is more telling of the living conditions of the household. Female householders are, in fact, less likely to reside in materially poor households after controlling for union status (e.g., single parenthood, divorce, cohabitation) in many countries. Our results highlight the nuance of family situations and female empowerment leading to headship. Policy makers should review differences in rights and entitlement between marital and non-marital couples, upward mobility and opportunities for women, and develop strategies that alleviate single earner households.

Keywords: headship; female; coresidence; Latin America; marriage; deprivation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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