JMF Research Finds Partners in Control of Finances Able to 'Bargain' Out of Housework Chores

New research published in Journal of Marriage and Family (JMF) by Yang Hu, Ph.D., a lecturer at Lancaster University in England, reveals the way in which couples in the U.K. manage their money tells 'a tale of two marriages.'

The research shows the management of household finances and control of financial decisions are linked to the time spent by women and men on routine housework such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping.

The study, What About Money? Earnings, Household Financial Organization, and Housework, now available as an early-view article for JMF subscribers, analyzed data from more than 6,000 heterosexual couples, aged 20 to 59, from the U.K. Household Longitudinal Survey (Understanding Society).

Management of household finances is associated with an increase in housework time for both men and women, whereas control of household financial decisions reduces men's but not women's housework time. Women's individual earnings reduce their housework time only when they can access these earnings, such as through their own separate bank account.

To negotiate their housework participation, men either hand over their income to their partners, who manage the money, so they use money to 'exchange' their way out of housework, or they hold on to their income to 'bargain' their way out of housework.

"Men get away with not doing housework through both channels," explains Dr. Hu. "It puts women in a very compromising position as they are left to do the lion's share of housework."

Indeed, women's income only reduces their housework time when they can access their own earnings and have a say in household financial decisions. But the study finds that in the U.K., less than 12% of working-age women kept separate purses, another 23% managed household finances, and only around 15% controlled financial decisions.

"Our research provides further evidence to show that despite women's participation in education and the labor market, this still has not yet translated into gender equality in housework at home," said Dr. Hu. "If men still monopolize the management of household finances and financial decisions, then things are unlikely to change. It's therefore important for everyone to be able to access their own earnings."

If you're an NCFR member who subscribes to the Journal of Marriage and Family, log in to the NCFR website and visit our JMF access webpage to read the full text of this and other articles.

Subscribers can also read the latest issue, June 2019 (Vol. 81, 3). The general public is invited to read the February 2019 (Vol. 81, 1) for free through the end of 2019.

JMF access webpage