The Influence of Gender and Income on the Household Division of Financial Responsibility
Most previous research on household dynamics has focused on how married couples divide responsibilities for "housework," a broad category that generally includes routine cleaning chores, child care, and house repairs. These studies often rely on diary-based records of the amount of time a member spends on these various activities. There has been less research on how married couples divide the responsibility for making important household decisions, in part because there is a lack of data, and what data that does exist relies on self-assessments of household dynamics, which may not be accurate measures of true dynamics. This study takes advantage of data from the 2012 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice that asked both adult members from mixed-gender households how they divided responsibility for four tasks related to financial activity. These four tasks—household shopping, monthly bill paying, important saving and investment decisions, and other financial decisions (for example, where to bank—fall along various points between a routinized activity to one involving more complex decisionmaking. The paper investigates how gender and income dynamics influence the division of responsibility between the male and the female partner in carrying out these four tasks. Households are divided into one of three categories: one in which the male is the primary (the largest) wage earner, one in which the incomes of both adults are roughly equal, and one in which the female is the primary wage earner. In the majority of the two-adult households surveyed, the male is the primary wage earner.