Intimate relationships and changing patterns of money management at the beginning of the twenty-first century

Br J Sociol. 2006 Sep;57(3):455-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2006.00120.x.


Drawing on British data from two annual sweeps of the ISSP eight years apart in 1994 and 2002, for modules focusing on 'Family and Changing Gender Roles', this paper examines the extent to which changes in women's labour market participation, changing ideologies/discourses of gender and changing forms of intimate relationships are affecting the ways in which couples organize household money, and the implications of such changes for recent theories of intimate relationships. The analysis indicates that by 2002, the type of relationship respondents had established, together with their social class position, were both independently related to the ways in which they managed money, after controlling for socio-economic and cultural or discursive factors. Our findings also provide a degree of support for the thesis of a partial decline in the male breadwinner model of gender, as indicated by small declines in the use of the relatively inegalitarian female whole wage and housekeeping allowance systems which were most likely to be used by married couples and cohabiting fathers, expressing relatively traditional ideologies/discourses of breadwinning - and a slight increase in the use of the partial pool, which was most likely to be used by childless cohabiting couples in which male partners expressed less traditional ideologies of breadwinning and women were in middle-class jobs with incomes high enough to facilitate partially separate finances. We also suggest, however, that in so far as cohabiting couples earning different amounts define equality as contributing equally to household expenditure, it is possible that rather than being associated with shifts to greater equality in access to money for personal spending and saving, the partial pool may be associated with marked inequalities, because it may enable gender inequalities generated in the labour market to be more directly transposed into inequalities within households, despite the decline of traditional discourses of male breadwinning and the increasing importance of egalitarian ideologies of co-provisioning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Economics / trends*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Household Work / economics*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Social Class
  • Surveys and Questionnaires