Women’s Relative Resources and Couples’ Gender Balance in Financial Decision Making

Martin Klesment , Tallinn University
Jan Van Bavel, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven

The reversal of the gender gap in education means that a growing proportion of women in Western countries have a higher education and income than their male partners. This can be expected to affect the balance of power within couples. We investigated how the relative education and earnings of husbands and wives are associated with self-reported major financial decision making within the family. From the perspective of relative resources, one would expect that the partner with more resources would have more say in these decisions. However, from the point of view of traditional gender roles, the husband takes the lead in financial decision making, so gender display might counterbalance the partners’ relative resources. In order to investigate empirically which mechanism predominates, we used European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions 2010 data for 27 European countries (n=72,638). In line with the relative resources perspective, we found that women who earn more than their partner are more likely to report that they alone make the major financial decisions in the family. However, in line with predictions based on traditional gender display, the association with relative earnings is not linear: in cases in which the wife earns almost all of the income, we find that husbands are reported to have more say in financial decision making than among couples in which both contribute a substantial part of the joint income.

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 Presented in Session 98. Gender and Family Finance