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Dads and Daughters: Disentangling Altruism and Investment Motives for Spending on Children (WP-22-16)

Rebecca Dizon-Ross and Seema Jayachandran

This paper tests whether mothers and fathers differ in their spending on their daughters relative to their sons. Dizon-Ross and Jayachandran compare mothers’ and fathers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for specific goods for their children, diverging from the previous literature’s approach of comparing the expenditure effects of mothers’ versus fathers’ income. The researchers’ method, which they apply in Uganda, allows them to estimate gender differences and explore mechanisms with greater precision. A second innovation is that they examine why spending patterns differ between mothers and fathers, e.g., altruism, personal returns to investing in children. The authors find that fathers have a lower WTP for their daughters’ human capital than their sons’ human capital, whereas mothers do not. They also find evidence that altruism plays a role in the mother-father differences: Fathers’ WTP for goods that simply bring joy to their daughters is lower than their WTP for such goods for their sons, but mothers’ is not.

Rebecca Dizon-Ross, Associate Professor of Economics and Charles E. Merrill Faculty Scholar, University of Chicago

Seema Jayachandran, Breen Family Professor of Economics and IPR Fellow, Northwestern University

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