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


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.

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Fig. 1

Source: Authors’ computation based on NSHIE, 2011, NCAER

Fig. 2

Source: Authors’ computation based on NSHIE, 2011, NCAER

Fig. 3

Source: Authors’ computation based on NSHIE, 2011, NCAER

Fig. 4

Source: Authors’ computation based on NSHIE, 2011, NCAER

Fig. 5

Source: Authors’ computation based on NSHIE, 2011, NCAER

Fig. 6

Source: Authors’ computation based on NSHIE, 2011, NCAER

Fig. 7
Fig. 8


  1. 1.

    Education levels of the male and female members are measured as 11 categories. We take the difference in education level of the main male member of the household and that of female member and then create dummy variables for positive, negative and no gap and include them in the regression analysis.


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Correspondence to Vidya Mahambare.

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Dhanaraj, S., Mahambare, V. & Munjal, P. From Income to Household Welfare: Lessons from Refrigerator Ownership in India. J. Quant. Econ. 16, 573–588 (2018).

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

JEL Classification

  • O180
  • D120
  • J120
  • C50
  • D71