chapter  3
21 Pages

Longitudinal and intergenerational perspectives on gendered asset accumulation in Indio Guayas, Guayaquil, Ecuador


Introduction The demographic, political, and economic drivers of urbanisation and the growth of cities in the Global South have exacerbated challenges of poverty, inequality, and exclusion. Closely associated with this, gender and development research and debates have focused on the gendered nature of urban poverty. Key milestones along the way have included the gendered urban impacts of neoliberal reforms in which ‘male bias’ in macroeconomic structural adjustment and subsequent economic globalisation processes has forced women to increase their labour both within the market and within the household (Elson 1991; Moser 1993), with associated precarious employment and work conditions (Pearson 2003). Closely linked has been the well-known stereotype, first elaborated back in the 1970s by Buvinic and Youssef (1978), that female-headed households are poorer than those headed by men. Since the 1990s, UNICEF, the World Bank, and various bilateral agencies have popularised this as the ‘feminisation of poverty’ (Jackson 1998). Given widespread evidence of the diversity among female-headed households, and the fact that the ‘feminisation of poverty’ tends to victimise women, it remains a contentious debate – useful for donor support but not necessarily empirically accurate (Chant 2008). The quantitative evidence on both gendered urban labour markets and household headship as contributors to poverty has been primarily based on income or consumption measurements. During the past decade, as the limitations of such poverty measurements as static and one-dimensional have been generally recognised, if not specifically in relation to gender, a range of new approaches has been introduced.1 These have included sustainable livelihoods (DFID 2000), social protection, identified as one of the three ‘pillars’ of the World Bank’s Development Report on Poverty (World Bank 2000), and more recently, assetbased approaches and their associated asset-accumulation strategies (Bebbington 1999; Carter and Barrett 2006; Moser 2007).2 Yet, to date the gendered nature of asset ownership and accumulation has received far less attention, as already recognised in the introduction to this book. Why is there so little research on this? It is generally explained in terms of the

lack of adequate data, as well as an appropriate methodology. For instance, surveys of the ownership of land, housing, livestock, and other productive assets tend to collect data at the household rather than the individual level. At the same time, is it important? In one of the few studies that specifically focuses on the gender dimensions of asset ownership, Deere et al. (2007) argue that the limited existing information focusing primarily on rural land ownership shows that women are far less likely than men to own or control assets, and also may not benefit from assets held by men in the same household, putting them at a greater risk of poverty and economic vulnerability. This is particularly the case with individual asset ownership of rural land (Agarwal 1994). In itself, this conclusion points to the importance of deconstructing the relationship between the gendered accumulation of assets within households and the extent to which it is associated with the empowerment of women. Three issues stand out as of particular relevance to discuss in this chapter. First, is to provide empirically based evidence on gender and asset accumulation in cities, as against the nature of gender and poverty. This is intended to show that just as household poverty data may not directly reflect the welfare of individuals (Sen 1990), so too household asset data may not reflect individual ownership within it. Second, since existing studies tend to focus either on a single asset, such as education or housing (see Rakodi, Chapter 5; Chiketwe-Biti and Mitlin, Chapter 7; and Meth, Chapter 6), or to describe a temporally bound static ‘snap shot’ at a point in time, this chapter seeks to provide a longitudinal perspective on gendered similarities and differences in accumulating asset portfolios over time. Although men and women use income in different ways with associated well-being impacts (Haddad et al. 1997), they may not accumulate the same assets at the same rate. Through their agency in making choices around interventions to accumulate assets, women may realise achievements that empower them. Does the accumulation of assets not only empower individual women, but also contribute to their successfully challenging power relations in a transformative manner, thereby contributing to just, more inclusive cities? The third issue is to ‘push the envelope’, by exploring the intergenerational transfer of assets, to both sons and daughters still living with or near their parents as well as those who have migrated to other urban contexts. While it is generally assumed that each generation benefits from the assets of the previous one, in reality is this so, with daughters consequently more empowered than mothers? Of particular significance in urban contexts is the transfer of intergenerational gendered property rights and collective social capital and the extent to which daughters, like their mothers, challenge power relations in a transformative manner. To address urban gendered asset accumulation both longitudinally and across generations, the concept of household headship, long invisibilised, is important because of its relevance in terms of changing gender roles and relations around headship. While Chant focuses on female headship as an asset in its own right (see Chapter 2), this chapter first provides comparative longitudinal data on patterns of male and female headship.3 It also identifies trends in the ownership of

capital assets, differentiating between male-and female-headed households. Second, moving beyond headship, intra-household data provide a gendered breakdown around specific capital assets at the individual level. Again, a longitudinal perspective contributes to identifying intergenerational asset ownership comparisons.