The Journal of Economic Inequality

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 249–265 | Cite as

Property rights and the gender distribution of wealth in Ecuador, Ghana and India

  • Carmen Diana Deere
  • Abena D. Oduro
  • Hema Swaminathan
  • Cheryl Doss


Women’s ability to accumulate wealth is often attributed to whether they have property rights; i.e., a legal personality to own and manage property. In this paper we argue that basic property rights are insufficient; whether women are able to accumulate wealth also depends upon the marital and inheritance regimes in particular contexts. Drawing upon surveys which collected individual level ownership data in Ecuador, Ghana and the state of Karnataka in India, we estimate married women’s share of couple wealth and relate it to how assets are owned within marriage as well as to different inheritance regimes and practices. In Ecuador, married women own 44 %, in Ghana, 19 %, and in Karnataka, 9 % of couple wealth. Ecuador is characterized by the partial community property regime in marriage while inheritance laws provide for all children, irrespective of sex, to be treated equally, norms that are largely followed in practice. In contrast, Ghana and India are characterized by the separation of property regime which does not recognize wives’ contribution to the formation of marital property, and by inheritance practices that are strongly male biased. Reforming marital and inheritance regimes must remain a top priority if gender economic equality is to be attained.


Inheritance regimes Marital regimes Women’s property rights Asset ownership Wealth in developing countries 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carmen Diana Deere
    • 1
  • Abena D. Oduro
    • 2
  • Hema Swaminathan
    • 3
  • Cheryl Doss
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for Latin American StudiesUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of EconomicsUniversity of GhanaLegonGhana
  3. 3.Centre for Public PolicyIndian Institute of Management BangaloreBangaloreIndia
  4. 4.Jackson InstituteYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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