Empowerment and intimate partner violence : Domestic abuse when household income is uncertain

Bulte, Erwin; Lensink, Robert


Intimate partner violence is an important global health problem that remains ill understood. Several studies have documented that female empowerment may increase violence against women—the so-called “male backlash.” We propose a utilitarian explanation for this phenomenon, based on the assumption that violence may be used as an instrument to affect the distribution of the household surplus between the spouses. Our main result is that promoting norms of gender equity (or otherwise enhancing the prospects of divorced women) may inadvertently promote violence against women in settings where production outcomes are uncertain.