Resources + Decision-making in households.

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  • Resources + decision making in households
    • There is inequality in who gets what - in how the family's resources are shared out between men and women.
      • This is linked to who controls the family's income and who has the power to make decisions about how its spent
        • Michelle Barrett and Mary McIntosh (1991) note that:
          • Men gain far more from women's domestic work than they give back in financial support.
          • The financial support that husbands give to their wives is often unpredictable and comes with 'strings' attached.
          • Men usually make the decisions about spending on important items.
      • Research shows that family members do not share resources such as money and food equally.
        • For example; Elaine Kempson (1994) found that among low income families, women denied their own needs, seldom going out, and eating smaller meals or skipping altogether in order to make ends meet.
        • Similarly, in Hilary Graham's (1984) study, over half the women who were living on benefits after separating from their husbands said that they and their children were actually better off.
          • Although their husband's earnings had not necessarily been low, they found that benefits were a more reliable source of income.
        • In many households, a woman has no entitlement to a share of household resources in her own right. As a result, she is likely to see anything she spends on herself as money that ought to be spent on essentials for the children. Even in households with apparently adequate incomes, resources may be shared unequally, leaving women in poverty.
    • Decision making and paid work.
      • One reason why men often take a greater share of the family's resources is because they usually contribute more money, due to there higher earnings.
        • The feminist sociologists Jan Pahl and Carolyn Vogler (1993) focus on how each partners contribution to family income affects decision making within the family.
          • They identify two main types of control over family income:
            • Pooling - Where both partners have access to income and joint responsibility for expenditure; e.g. a joint bank account.
            • Allowance system - where men give their wives and allowance out of which they have to budget to meet the family's needs, with the main retaining any surplus income for himself.
        • Pooling is on the increase. Comparing a sample of 1,211 couples with their parents, Vogler (1994) found a large increase in pooling (from 19% to 50%), and a sharp decline in the house keeping allowance system (from 36% to 12%).
          • Pahl and Vogler found that pooling was more common among couples where both partners work full-time.
            • HOWEVER.. they found that even here, the men usually made the major financial decisions.
            • This is supported by Irene Hardill's (1997) research. In her study of 30 dual-career professional couples, she found that the important decisions were usually taken either by the man alone or jointly and that his career normally took priority when deciding whether to move house for a new job. This supports Janet Finch's (1983) observation that women's lives tend to be structured around their husbands' careers.
              • Similarly, Stephen Edgell's (1980) study of professional couples found that:
                • Very important decisions -  such as those involving finance, a change of job or moving house - were either taken by the husband alone or taken jointly but with the husband having final say.
                • Important decisions - such as those about children's education or where to go on holiday - were usually take jointly, and seldom by the wife alone.
                • Less important decisions - such as the choice of home decor,  children's clothes or food purchases - were usually made by the wife.
            • Like Pahl and Vogler, Edgell argues that the reason men are likey to take the decisions is that they earn more. Women usually earn less than their husbands, and being dependent on them economically have less say in decision-making.
              • HOWEVER.. other feminists argue that inequalities in decision-making are not simply the result of inequalities in earnings.
                • There argument is that in patriarchal society, the cultural definition of men as decision makers is deeply ingrained in both men and women and instilled through gender role socialisation. Until this definition is challenged, decision making is likely to remain unequal.


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