Characteristics of Male and Female Headed Households

in Two Caribbean Islands: Dominica and St. Lucia


The paper analyzes data from special tabulations of the 1991 census for Dominica and St. Lucia. It finds that female headed households are only slightly larger, that the income gender gap is narrowing, and that female age-specific headship rates continue to be among the highest in the world. Though male heads are economically more active, proportionately more female heads are employed in administrative, managerial and professional/technical occupations. Female heads also tend to be better educated at the primary and secondary levels and are assumed to be closing the gap at the university level. Data from St. Lucia only indicate that marriage rates rise predictably with age for male and female heads but are roughly twice as high for males. Household composition for both groups is dominated by the nuclear component with female households containing fewer spouses, more children, and larger extended and non-related components. These country-wide results challenge certain aspects of the conventional wisdom drawn primarily from lower class and small rural communities. Key Words: male, female, household, Caribbean, island.