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Abstract

Relying on a structured survey of 117 wives in four rural villages in the Midnapore District of West Bengal, this article investigates the influence on the intra-family status of wives of variables which may increase the bargaining power of wives in their family. Several indicators of status are considered and investigated using the ANOVA technique and probit analysis. The main hypothesis considered is whether the results support bargaining theories of the intrahousehold status of wives or the view that gender status is primarily determined in Indian society by social customs and the patriarchal structure of society. Given the overall patriarchal structure of Indian society, the results indicate that bargaining theories are at best only marginally relevant. Situations which result in greater bargaining power for wives in Western Societies do not necessarily do so in north India given the total pervasiveness of its patriarchal society.

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