Study: Financial Responsibilities Becoming Less of a Gender Issue, More of an Earnings Issue

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Feb 14, 2017

A recent study from the Federal Reserve has found that while household financial issues were once strictly gendered, the question of who does what and how is starting to become a matter of simply which partner earns more, according to Bloomberg. The study looked at data from the 2012 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice, which features 3,176 total respondents, of which 1,499 come from two-adult, mixed-gender house-holds. It asked mixed-gender households who takes responsibility for  “paying bills,” “household shopping,” “making decisions about saving and investments,” and “making decisions about other household financial matters.” 

What it found was that, for three of the tasks—paying bills, making decisions about
saving and investment choices, and other financial decisions—the likelihood of having more responsibility increases as an adult’s relative income ranking increases, regardless of gender. Whichever partner earns more is the one who is most likely to take the lead on that task. 

The last realm, household shopping, however, has remained heavily gendered relative to the other tasks. Regardless of whether the male or female partner earns more, women remain responsible for doing the shopping. Conversely, only one in six men are mainly responsible for the shopping. 

Outside day-to-day money management, though, the study also found that most couples in the U.S. tend to be equal partners in major financial matters. These decisions are much more likely to be shared equally, with over 50 percent of households estimated as doing so no matter the member’s gender and relative income. 

"The dichotomy is not surprising, as financial decisions are often important enough to discuss among both adult members, whereas the other two activities [bill payments and shopping] are more routine tasks that are more efficiently undertaken by one individual," said the paper. 

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