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Marginal (m)others: lone parents and female household headship in the Philippines

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This article draws from two research projects. The first was conducted during 1993–94 with a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council, UK (Award No.R000234020) for a project entitled 'Gender, Development and Poverty in the Philippine Visayas'. Seed finance for a pilot study on the Philippines (1991–92) was provided by a number of small grants from the ESRC (Award No.R000233291), the Nuffield Foundation, the British Academy and the Suntory-Toyota International Center for Economics and Related Disciplines. The second major project was carried out with the aid of a Nuffield Foundation Social Science Research Fellowship (1994–95) for the study of female-headed households and development in cross-cultural perspective. This was based on field research from Mexico and Costa Rica as well as the Philippines. Aside from my gratitude to all these organisations for funding, the author would like to thank Dr Cathy McIlwaine who acted as Research Officer on both the pilot and major project on the Philippines. Dr McIlwaine also gave valuable comments on the present study, a preliminary version of which was presented at the ASEASUK Conference, University of Durham, 29–31 March 1995. The author's thanks also extend to Dr Cristóbal Kay and to the three anonymous referees who made helpful suggestions for revisions. Although women-headed households are a growing presence in several parts of the developing world, they are still relatively uncommon in the Philippines. In many respects this is anomalous since the Philippines is marked by a number of economic, demographic and social features which elsewhere in Southeast Asia and in other developing countries are associated with increases in female household headship. With reference to primary survey data and case study material from low-income communities and selected occupational sectors in three localities of the Philippine Visayas, this article attempts to identify reasons for the limited incidence of women-headed households. One of the main findings is that routes into female household headship tend to be blocked by low rates of conjugal separation. This is largely due to the lack of legal divorce and to strong religious and moral pressures on married couples to stay together. Moreover, since living without a male partner increases the social stigmatisation attached to the state of lone motherhood, when women become separated or have children out of wedlock, they may reside within the homes of parents or senior kin as a means of reducing their visibility. At the same time, variations are found in levels of female headship according to occupational group, with female sex workers being more likely to head independent households. The study explores the reasons for these variations with special attention to the social marginalisation of female-headed households in the Philippine Visayas, and to the construction of lone mothers as a negative 'other'.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/22735/

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