Gender & Assets Toolkit

Control over and ownership of assets are a critical component for the well-being of individuals and households. A crucial first step toward understanding the gender dimensions of asset ownership and control is acquiring detailed gender-disaggregated information on assets though monitoring, evaluation, and data collection. As part of GAAP1 we developed a toolkit intended to help researchers and practitioners collect, measure, and analyze gender and assets data in qualitative and quantitative evaluations for current and future projects.  The toolkit was initially developed in February 2012 but was updated in September 2014 to include results from the 8 portfolio projects. You can download the full version of the toolkit here.

Assets are multi-dimensional, and thus have multi-dimensional benefits. Productive assets can generate products or services that are consumed or sold to generate income. Assets such as homes or buildings may both provide services as well as generate rent. In addition to tangible assets, it is important to remember that assets also encompass intangible items like social capital and education that can be converted into marketable connections and skills. Assets are long-term stores of wealth that can increase or decrease with investment and time. Assets can act as collateral and facilitate access to credit and financial services. Their fungibility provides security through emergencies and opportunities in periods of growth. In short, owning land and livestock, homes and equipment, and other resources and wealth enables people to create more stable and productive lives. Increasing ownership of and control over assets also helps to provide more permanent pathways out of poverty compared to measures that aim to increase incomes or consumption alone. Agricultural development projects that seek to increase the asset holdings of the poor contribute to sustainable poverty reduction while promoting self-reliance.

Who controls these assets within the household is critical to household and individual well-being. There is now substantial evidence that contradicts the common assumption made in economics and many development projects of a “unitary” model of the household – that is, the assumption that households are groups of individuals who have the same preferences and fully pool their resources. Evidence suggests that, while some assets in a household are jointly held, many assets within households are held individually by the men, women and children who comprise households (Haddad et al. 1997; Behrman 1997). This allocation of assets to various individuals within households is determined both by the contexts in which households find themselves as well as intra-household dynamics. The distribution of assets across individuals within a household may, in turn, affect individuals’ intra-household bargaining power when individual preferences over outcomes differ. A growing body of evidence has shown that not only do women typically have fewer assets than men, but they also use the ones they have differently. Increasing women’s control over assets, mainly land, physical, and financial assets, has been to shown to have positive effects on a number of important development outcomes for the household, including food security, child nutrition, and education, as well as women’s own well-being (Quisumbing 2003; Smith 2003; World Bank 2001). Based on this and other evidence, it can be inferred that understanding the role of men’s and women’s asset ownership and control is key to achieving global development goals.