Does the contribution of women to household expenditure explain contraceptive use? An assessment of the relevance of bargaining theory to Africa

Ayaga A Bawah, Patrick O Asuming, Martin Bangha, James F Phillips, Maya Vaughan-Smith


This paper draws on the concept of bargaining theory to interpret contraceptive decision-making among women who express a desire to limit or space children. Bargaining theory assumes conflict in decision making within households and posits that such conflict is resolved through bargaining. Women’s bargaining power is said to increase with more control of resources. The underlying assumption is that household decisions are governed by economics. This paper acknowledges that economics may influence reproductive decisions, but posits that African social norms and institutions are more important in defining conjugal roles than spousal relative economic contribution to family expenditure. Findings from seven African countries show that women who contribute more income to household expenditure are no more likely to adopt family planning as predicted by bargaining theory. These results bring into question theoretical perspectives that are sometimes promoted as generic explanatory models without validation in specific cultural settings.


Family planning; Bargaining theory; Decision-making; Empowerment

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ISSN 2308-7854 (online); ISSN 0850-5780 (print)

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