This paper pulls together various criticisms of the neo-classical household model, from both within and outside the field of economics in order to move towards a more empirically-relevant approach to household analysis.
Starting with the pure ‘Beckerian’ household, the paper utilises empirical data from a variety of cultural contexts in order to contest the neo-classical claim to ‘transcultural’ explanations of human behaviour and organisation. It then goes on to examine ‘bargaining’ approaches to the household which have evolved to counter the early emphasis on the conflict-free nature of household relations.
The work of Amartya Sen in this area is explored through more detailed case-material from Bangladesh and the Gambia and reformulated in the light of this discussion. The final section moves towards an alternative more disaggregated framework for conceptualising the household on the grounds that it is more likely to generate culturally-sensitive research, and information that has greater relevance to policymakers.