Women were asked about different categories of household decision-making, regarding economic concerns, in order to learn about family and household relationships and women’s relative autonomy over what they view as important. In Figures 15, 16, and 17, responses about decision-making for household purchases are shown. Men appear to exercise more power than women within the household.
As Figure 15 displays, most currently or formerly married women report that either their husbands (alone or jointly with them) make decisions about daily household and family needs in more than half of households (56%). In nearly a third (32%) parents, children, or other relatives are making decisions on daily household purchases.
Women’s sole decision-making authority for household purchases does grow some as age increases. However, between ages 25 and 44, women report that their husbands make the purchase decisions in well over half of the households. After age 55, women report that other family members are making the decisions on daily purchases in almost two-thirds of the households (64%).
Education increases women’s role in household decision-making. The role of sole decision-maker for daily purchases is nearly twice as large among women with secondary or higher degrees (19%) than among women with no formal schooling (11%). Their role as joint decision-maker increases even more from 5% of those with no formal schooling to 20% of women with at least a secondary degree.
Women who work for pay are three times more likely to make the daily purchasing decisions (33%) on their own than women who do not work for pay (11%). The more educated also have greater joint authority with their husbands over daily purchases.
Urban women make more purchasing decisions for daily household needs than women in smaller towns or rural areas. In rural areas other relatives play a larger role in the household decisions.
Current or former husbands have more control over household decisions regarding large purchases (Figure 16). In general, women’s sole authority for decision-making is lower for large purchases than daily purchases; there is some increase in the proportion of couples who make decisions jointly. Overall, 6% of ever-married women report that they make large household decisions on their own and 11% make these decisions jointly with their husband. Over half (53%) say that their husband alone makes these decisions for the household. For three out of ten women (29%), these decisions are made by other relatives.
Women’s sole decision-making authority increases with age up to 55-64 years; in the oldest age group, 65 and over, other relatives are making large purchase decisions in 72% of these households. Between ages 25 and 44, husbands make large purchase decisions on their own in nearly two-thirds (63-64%) of households and 12% (age 25-34) to 17% (age 35-44) make decisions jointly with their wives.
There is not a strong shift across education level where women with more schooling are more likely to make decisions on large purchases in the household. However, women who work for pay do exercise more decision-making authority within the household. Women who work for pay are twice as likely to make large household decisions on their own as women who do not work for pay (14% and 6% respectively). Working women are also more likely than nonworking women to share decision-making with their husbands (17% and 10% respectively) and less likely to share it with other family members (21% and 29% respectively). In urban areas, women appear to have more joint authority with their husbands and less with other relatives than in small towns or rural areas.
Interestingly, these results seem to contradict the earlier results shown in Figure 13 regarding freedom to decide how earnings are used. While 64% of women felt completely free to decide how earnings are used (Figure 13), only 6% of women feel free to make large household purchases, and 11% jointly with their husbands (Figure 16). This discrepancy indicates that depending how the question is framed, perception of freedom and various examples may differ.
The survey asked specifically about the decision to purchase a home (Figure 17). The patterns are quite similar to the previous analysis of large household purchases in general. One difference is that many more respondents (10%) said that they did not know or refused to answer the question about house purchase than large purchases (1%). Half of ever-married women say that their husbands make home purchase decisions on their own. Four percent of women say they make the decision on their own and 12% say they do so jointly with their husbands. Twenty-four percent report other relatives make house purchase decisions.
The proportion of women making house purchase decisions on their own is higher at ages 45 and older than in the younger groups. However, joint decisions with their husbands are highest in the 25-44 years range. The role of other relatives grows in the housing decisions of women age 55 and older.
Education increases the proportion of women who report deciding on house purchases with their husbands from 9% among women with no formal schooling to 23% for those completing at least intermediate school. The role of other relatives declines across educational levels from 26% for women with no formal schooling to 12% for women completing secondary school or more.
Women who work for pay are three times more likely than those who do not to say that they make house purchase decisions on their own (9% and 3% respectively) and twice as likely to say that they and their husbands share decision-making power when it comes to making large household purchases (24% and 11%, respectively). Working women are less likely to have extended family involved in their housing decisions than nonworking women (24% and 14%, respectively).
Women living in urban areas are more likely (22%) than those in small towns (13%) or rural areas (9%) to report that they make housing decisions jointly with their husbands, and less likely to have other relatives involved in such decisions.