This business is mine! Individual property rights and intra-household relationships

Working Paper
Published on 31 August 2022

A previous version of this paper was published in 2019. 


This paper studies how stronger property rights on a micro-business affect entrepreneurs intra-household bargaining power, investment decisions and the extend to which they are constrained by their household in Benin. A randomized experiment on firm formalization - which in this context clarifies the legal business owner within the household - is used as exogenous source of variation in property rights. Entrepreneurs (both female and male) who become formal gain more control over household revenue, consistent with higher bargaining power. Female entrepreneurs also invest more in their business and are much more likely to pay to hide a windfall transfer from their spouse (a measure of intra-household constraints). For male entrepreneurs, formalization has no effect on investment but leads to more separation between personal and business resources, which potentially allows them to better resist the pressure to share resources. Consistently, they are also less likely to pay to hide a windfall transfer to their partner. Overall, the results are consistent with female entrepreneurs (but not male) being constrained by their spouse in their investment decisions, especially when they have stronger formal rights on their business.


Victor Pouliquen

University of Oxford