This study examines the effect of welfare payments provided to women on intra‐household decision‐making, female autonomy, and perceptions of responsibility for housework, by exploiting the case of Mexico’s Progresa conditional cash transfer program.
Although past scholarship has extensively studied the relationship between wives’ labor market earnings and household dynamics, fewer studies have analyzed the causal impact of women’s welfare payments on these outcomes. These resources have become increasingly important as policy initiatives, especially in developing countries, have focused on implementing targeted programs promoting women’s economic empowerment.
A sample of married and cohabiting couples participating in Progresa was constructed using the National Survey of Household Characteristics (N = 9,751 unions). Random assignment to the program allowed to estimate the causal effects of Progresa payments after 1.5 years, controlling for unobserved factors.
Progresa cash transfers had a positive effect on attitudinal measures of housework and female autonomy, while they did not change household decision‐making. Progresa payments did not generate a gender backlash response among treated families—such as pushing women further into unpaid labor, as some critics expected.
In the short‐run, Progresa cash transfers improved women’s position in the household. These findings are consistent with both resource‐based and time constraints perspectives.
This study illustrates how can we exploit field experiments to answer sociological questions concerning the family.