Female-Headed Households and Homeownership in Latin America


Nestor Gandelman


Universidad ORT Uruguay

Director of the Department of Economics at Universidad ORT Uruguay. Also, a Level 3 Researcher (top level) of the National System of Research.


Key Takeaways

    How To Apply Insights

    • Although this paper does not provide immediate policy recommendations to eliminate or reduce homeownership gender biases, it opens the door for further exploration that should be made, at the country level, into the institutional determinants of this situation and the eventual remedies.
    • Need high quality of data and important to know more about what happens within the household.
    • Governments have social programs associated to housing tenure. These can benefit from a gender perspective with these types of results.   

    Findings & Research Conclusions

    This paper claims that the determinants of women’s household headship and those of homeownership are correlated, and therefore the empirical models of the probability of attaining homeownership used in most studies has a statistical problem (endogeneity) that leads to inconsistent and often counter-intuitive results. If female household headship is not exogenous to the tenure choice, then, even in the presence of lower probabilities of homeownership, a naive view of the data may reflect that women headed households have higher probabilities of owning their own home.

    It is thought that this is the first paper which focuses on the factors affecting homeownership and household headship jointly by explicitly providing an econometric solution to the endogeneity issues that arise by the joint determination of both variables. The results for 17 Latin American countries show that the biases are important, and that female headed families have a substantially lower probability of attaining homeownership.

    Regarding other variables, as expected, it was found that the higher the income of the family the higher the probability of owning their home. The higher the income of the woman of the house the higher the probability of having a female headed family. Therefore, for a woman higher personal income has opposing effects on the probability of attaining homeownership. On the one hand, the direct effect higher household income increases the probability of homeownership. On the other hand, it also increases the probability of female headship and thus reduces the probability of homeownership.

    Homeownership is one of the most powerful intergenerational wealth transmission mechanisms. Therefore, the results of this paper are important for poverty reduction policies. Although it does not provide immediate policy recommendations to eliminate or reduce homeownership gender biases, it changes the diagnostic and opens the window to explore at the country level the institutional determinants of this situation and the eventual remedies.

    Research's methodology

    Had access to household surveys of 17 Latin America countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela from South America; Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama from Central America; and Mexico. To estimate the differential effect of gender household headship we postulate a
    bivariate probit model of homeownership and female household headship.


    The paper was published in 2009 so there could have been developments since this time. The situation in society may have changed, and the quality of the data may have improved.

    Recursive bivariate probit modelEconomical technique to jointly estimate the probability of two events (homeownership and female headship). Better technique than to estimate separately each one.
    EndogenousJointly determined with other variables of the model.

    Reference this research

    Gandelman, Nestor (2009) ‘Female Headed Households and Homeownership in Latin America’, Housing Studies, 24:4,525 — 549

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