Journal of Quantitative Economics

, Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 573–588 | Cite as

From Income to Household Welfare: Lessons from Refrigerator Ownership in India

  • Sowmya Dhanaraj
  • Vidya MahambareEmail author
  • Poonam Munjal
Original Article


This paper draws implications for the energy and education policies in developing countries based on the insights derived from studying the determinants of household refrigerator ownership in India. In our study the failure of the government policies to ensure reliable public services such as uninterrupted power supply and improving female education levels turn out to be the key stumbling blocks to raising household welfare in India. While a threshold level of household income is necessary for a purchase of a consumer durable, it is not a sufficient condition. Our results for the determinants of refrigerator ownership in India suggest that, even when households have sufficient purchasing power, the duration of a complementary good (electricity for >17 h per day) is critical for the ownership, all else held constant. Also, females in households tend to derive greater utility from the refrigerator usage due to its impact on lowering household burden of work and easing women’s entry into the labour market. Our results confirm the hypothesis that when women bargaining power is proxied by the level of education, households with a female with higher level of education have higher probability of refrigerator ownership.


Economic development: urban rural Household behaviour Family structure Econometric modelling ownership analysis 

JEL Classification

O180 D120 J120 C50 D71 


  1. Beerli, A. 2010. The evolution of durable goods demand during China’s transition, Working Paper No 201, University of Zurich.Google Scholar
  2. Dargay, J., D. Gately, and M. Sommer. 2007. Vehicle ownership and income growth worldwide: 1960–2030. Energy Journal 28(4):143–170.Google Scholar
  3. de V. Cavalcanti Tiago V, Tavares José. 2008. Assessing the “Engines of Liberation”: Home Appliances and Female Labor Force Participation. In The Review of Economics and Statistics, vol. 90(1), 81–88. MIT Press.Google Scholar
  4. De la Rue du Can, S., Letschert, V., MCNeil, M., Zhou, N., and J. Sathaye. 2009. Residential and Transport Energy use in India: Past Trend and Future Outlook, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.Google Scholar
  5. Farrell, M.J. 1954. The Demand for Motor-Cars in the United States. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (General) 117 (2): 171–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gertler, P., M. Sebastien, and M. Rubio-Codina. 2012. Investing Cash Transfers to Raise Long-term Living Standards. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy 4 (1): 461–92.Google Scholar
  7. Greenwood, J., A. Seshadri, and M. Yorukoglu. 2005. Engines of Liberalisation. Review of Economic Studies 72 (1): 109–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Jones, L.E., R.E. Manuelli, and E.R. McGrattan.2003. Why are married women working so much? Federal Bank of Minneapolis Staff Report, Series 317, Minneapolis MN.Google Scholar
  9. McNeil, M.A., and V.E. Letschert. 2010. Modeling diffusion of electrical appliances in the residential sector. Energy and Buildings 42 (6): 783–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Polato e Fava, A., and M. Arends-Kuenning. 2013. Intra-household Bargaining and the Demand for Consumer Durables in Brazil, IZA Discussion Paper No. 7281.Google Scholar
  11. Rong, Z., and Y. Yao. 2003. Public Service Provision and demand for appliances in rural China. China Economic Review 14: 131–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Wolfram, C., O. Shelef, and P. Gertler. 2012. How Will Energy Demand Develop in the Developing World? Journal of Economic Perspectives 26 (1): 119–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. World Bank. 2008. Residential Consumption of Electricity in India, Background Paper for India: Strategies for low carbon growth, July. Washington. D. C.Google Scholar
  14. World Bank. 2015. World Bank Open Data. Accessed 27 Feb 2017

Copyright information

© The Indian Econometric Society 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Madras School of EconomicsChennaiIndia
  2. 2.Great Lakes Institute of ManagementManamaiIndia
  3. 3.National Council of Applied Economic ResearchNew DelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations