Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Financial Solidarity or Autonomy? How Gendered Wealth and Income Inequalities Influence Couples’ Money Management

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Abstract:  It is well established that women have lower income and wealth levels than men. These inequalities are most pronounced within heterosexual couples and grow once partners get married and have children. Nevertheless, equality in controlling money within couples is highly valued and might ameliorate women’s disadvantages in income and wealth ownership. Previous research has focused on explaining gender wealth inequalities at the household level; less is known about the possible consequences of these inequalities on how couples manage their money. In this article, we investigate how income and wealth inequalities among couples are associated with joint or independent money management. In theoretical terms, we perceive money management systems as representing two different norms of reciprocity within couples for buffering income and wealth inequalities between partners, depending on the transferability of resources and their institutional regulation. We apply pooled logistic regression models to data from the German Socio‐Economic Panel Study. Our findings confirm that income and wealth are relevant but have opposite associations with couples’ money management strategies. While couples with unequal income constellations tend to pool their money, couples with unequal wealth constellations manage their money independently. Accordingly, couples seem to use labour income to buffer gender inequalities by sharing resources, thereby following the norm of partnership solidarity. In contrast, gender wealth inequalities are reproduced by keeping resources separate, thus representing the norm of financial autonomy.

Keywords:  couple households; gender inequality; Germany; income; money management; wealth


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© Agnieszka Althaber, Kathrin Leuze, Ramona Künzel. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.