The paper proposes a new methodology to
measure inequality among boys and girls within households. It analyses
the distribution of outcomes between girls and boys for four indicators: nutrition, birth registration, school attendance and time spent doing
work and chores, with data obtained from UNICEF’s Multiple Indicators
Cluster Surveys. It assesses total inequality and its within-household
component for two periods for up to 20 developing countries, depending
on data availability.
An L-Theil index is used to measure the
extent of inequality and decompose it into the between-household and
within-household components. Overall inequality is sizeable. It tends to be higher in nutrition (stunting) and work hours, and relatively lower
in school attendance and birth registration, where average outcomes tend to be higher. Nevertheless, the share of gender inequality that occurs
within households is largest for school attendance, accounting for
nearly half of the total inequality.
inequality is an issue in countries even when there is, on average,
progress towards increased child wellbeing. Across the four indicators
of child wellbeing, intra-household inequalities can represent a
significant proportion of total inequality. They range from a minimum of 6% in working hours, and can go up to 48% in school attendance, on
average, but with great variability across countries. When looking at
individual countries and years, the contribution of intra-household
inequality is lowest in Gambia, Swaziland and Mongolia (1% of inequality in school attendance in Gambia and in work time in Swaziland and
Mongolia), and highest in Albania (79% of inequality in birth
At the country level, disparities inside
households do not show a consistent bias towards either boys or girls.
In school attendance and birth registration more households tend to
favour girls, while in work time and stunting, they tend to disadvantage them. This pattern is reinforced when looking at biases across pairs of indicators, albeit with a weak favouring of boys.