Public Transfers and Domestic Violence: The Roles of Private Information and Spousal Control
Gustavo J Bobonis
Existing economic theories of the family suggest that public transfer programs in which funds are targeted to women, by improving women’s bargaining position in the household, may decrease the incidence of spousal abuse. We study this prediction empirically using data from a unique survey in Mexico to examine the impact of the Oportunidades conditional cash transfer program on spousal abuse rates and threats of violence. We find that although women in beneficiary households are 33 percent less likely to be victims of physical abuse than women in comparable non-beneficiary households, they are more likely to receive violent threats with no associated physical abuse. We re-interpret a model of decision-makers’ interactions with asymmetric information in the male partners’ gains to marriage to document how increases in female partners’ socioeconomic opportunities can lead to an increase in husbands’ use of violent threats with no associated physical abuse – predictions consistent with the empirical evidence.
spousal abuse; conditional cash transfer programs; non-cooperative bargaining
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