Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 76
This paper investigates whether heterogeneous subgroups of female-headed households are worse off than traditional households headed by men. We analyze the determinants of consumption, shock exposure and vulnerability to poverty. Using unique panel data of over 4000 rural households from Thailand and Vietnam, we find strong signs of heterogeneity among the subgroups of female-headed households. In particular, in both countries de facto female-headed households are consumption richer and less vulnerable to poverty than households with a male head. In Vietnam de jure female-headed households are consumption poorer and more vulnerable to poverty. In Thailand de jure female-headed households do not differ significantly from male-headed households in terms of the analyzed welfare dimensions. These results show how widows and singles in Vietnam are not well protected against uncertainties. The results also indicate that differentiation by subgroups of headship is important for policy targeting and future research. We interpret this as a first step towards a more complete picture of vulnerability of female-headed households in the developing world.