Household power is unequal and contested between women and men, especially with regard to money and women’s mobility.
IMAGES results find that countries vary considerably on whether household decision-making is male-dominated for large household investments (things like buying a car, a house, or furniture). Significant regional variation is visible in men’s and women’s responses, with Latin America and the Caribbean showing the lowest proportions of male domination in household decision-making and much decision-making shared equally overall, likely reflecting women’s relatively high labor force participation in the region. Across the regions, there is strong agreement between men’s and women’s assessments of the household dynamic. In general, the theme expected to appear – men giving themselves more credit for equal sharing than women recognize – did not emerge. If anything, the opposite is true: Women report they have some contributing power in the “share equally” scenario, but the same percentage of men don’t see it that way, and insist on or perceive their primacy in financial decision-making.
One universal finding is that if one disregards “shared equally,” Bolivia is the only country where women are more likely than men to report making the final decision. The highest overall levels of male domination in decision-making can be seen in the Arab States and in sub-Saharan Africa. Eastern Europe and Central Asia shows the greatest variability within a single region, ranging from 43 percent of men and 41 percent of women reporting male domination in decision-making in Azerbaijan to 16 percent of men and 11 percent of women in Croatia saying the same. Indeed, the levels of men (81 percent) and women (85 percent) in Croatia reporting shared decision-making are the highest across all of the countries for which there are data.
Proportion of men and women's responses on who in their homes has the "final say with regard to large financial investments": male family member(s), shared equally, or female family member(s).
In no country does anywhere near the majority of women report they have the “final say” on how they spend their own free time. In eight of the 13 countries for which IMAGES surveys included this question, men are more likely to have the final say than women about women’s movement. And the “shared equally” response when it comes to women’s freedom of movement is hardly an indication of equality and autonomy; women alone should be able to decide how they spend their time. Only in Morocco and Kuwait do at least a third of women report that they are making the final decision on their own behalf.
Women's Free Time
Women's responses to who in their homes has the "final say with regard to how [respondent] spends her free time": whether she or another female family member has the final say, the final say is shared equally among female and male family members, or a male family member has the final say.
Household decision-making is more equitable when women have more education and economic independence.
Women’s responses in IMAGES surveys show that in many locations, educational attainment and employment status are positively correlated with equally shared or female-led decision-making around major financial purchases. IMAGES data help demonstrate that these aspects of women’s lives – their educational opportunities, income-earning, and household power – are part of the same equation and the same interlocking set of oppressions and opportunities.
Women’s educational attainment is positively associated with equal or female-led decision-making in seven of the country studies. While results vary by location, the pattern shows modest increases in decision-making equality as women reach the lower or upper secondary level, and then a major increase for those with postsecondary education. However, these educational opportunities are relatively rare among women in IMAGES studies, meaning that precious few experience this association.
Women's Education Linked With Decision-Making Power
Proportion of women reporting the "final say" on major household financial decisions is either shared equally or female-led, broken out by women's educational attainment. The countries shown are only those for which this association meets the p < .05 significance level, and the "Average of Included Countries" line is calculated from these seven countries alone.
In nine countries, women who were working outside the home for pay at the time of the study played a significantly greater role in major household financial decisions than those who were not formally employed. Overall, when these nine countries are combined into an average, the scope of this association mirrors that of education, wherein about three in every four women who were formally employed (the same proportion as those with postsecondary education) say that financial decision-making is shared equally or female-led. Among women not formally employed in these same countries, that figure is only 57 percent. The relationship between employment and power seems particularly strong in the Arab States; more than half of the total countries (included only when they achieve statistical significance) in both figures are from the Arab States.
The key finding is that educating girls and empowering them in the labor market contribute to more equitable household decision-making in the long run. Many factors of women’s empowerment interact, including education, employment, and decision-making, but none of these alone will achieve true equality in the home. For that, we must address the systemic and individual obstacles to men doing their full part at home as well.
Women's Employment Linked With Decision-Making Power
Proportion of women reporting the "final say" on household financial decisions is either shared equally or female-led, broken out by women's formal employment status. The countries shown are only those for which this association meets the p < .05 significance level, and the “Average of Included Countries” is calculated from these nine countries alone.
Men's and women's household division of labor is inequitable, but men often don't acknowledge this.
The IMAGES surveys collect data on women and men’s contribution towards caring for their children. The analysis shows that men and women tend to disagree about their respective contributions to the care of their children, with men generally reporting more participation in this care work than women say men carry out. In every country where women’s and men’s data exist, the proportion saying that daily routine care of the child is “shared equally” is higher among men than among women. Also notable is how rarely overall “always or usually him” appears. Daily, routine childcare is, by and large, seen as “women’s work,” even as change is slowly happening.
Is Daily Routine Care of Children "Shared Equally"?
Proportion of respondents with children reporting who primarily undertakes "daily routine care of the child." Respondents were prompted to think of their current youngest child or the most recent time they had a child aged 0 to 4, and they could select "always or usually me," "shared equally," or "always or usually spouse."
In addition, to the extent that men perform childcare tasks, there is a clear and gendered division of tasks that are performed primarily by women and primarily by men. Drawing on IMAGES data, we can conclude that men play with their children far more commonly than they bathe their children. Despite considerable variation in the absolute and relative levels of engagement in these activities across regions, one pattern is clear: Men are consistently engaged in more playing and less bathing. The near-global challenge is how to implement policies and other social change to encourage and demand men share fully in all kinds of caregiving.
Making The Mess Vs. Cleaning It Up
Proportion of men who say they have ever bathed their child(ren) compared to the proportion of men who say they have ever played with their child(ren).