Wednesday, January 20, 2010

She Makes Most of the Financial Decisions, Even When He Makes More

The Pew Center report on marriage and work had an interesting chart on one of my favorite minor topics: who makes the financial decisions in the family?

The survey asked "When you and your spouse make decisions about managing the household finances, who has the final say?" Pew report combined husband and wife reports under three categories: "mainly wife," "mainly husband," and "share." The last combines two different options, "sometimes me/sometimes my spouse" and "we decide together."

Pew wanted to know if the answer to this question varied depending on whether husband or wife earned more. It does. What strikes me as most interesting, though, is that under either condition, she is more likely to make most of the financial decisions. Here are the two tables.

When the husband earns more
  • 36% mainly wife
  • 35% mainly husband
  • 28% share
When the wife earns more
  • 46% mainly wife
  • 21% mainly husband
  • 33% share
I think many couples make a distinction between daily finances and big ticket items. My hunch is that in most couples, the wife makes more of the daily decisions, and the husband has a greater role in the major financial decisions. The Pew results do not capture this distinction.

Still, the overall result is interesting: she is more likely to make most of the financial decisions, even when he makes more.


Anonymous said...

It all depends on how you define "financial decision." I don't consider all the grocery shopping or the vast majority of the things that I purchase for our home to be "financial decisions." I reserve that term for purchasing investments, deciding which retirement funds we want, which educational fund for our child, and huge purchases like a car or house.

How each person defines the term could greatly change the results of the poll. So, I'm not going to put much faith in the results of this particular poll.

Gruntled said...

Fair enough.

I will see if I can at least get from Pew the breakdown of "we decide together" vs. "sometimes I decide/sometimes my spouse decides."