Turns out, women are better with it — stereotype to the contrary.
It would seem, according to a couple of new studies, that men and women approach finances very differently indeed. Says the Wall Street Journal,
In Bangladesh, Nobel Prize-winner Muhammad Yunus, creator of the micro-credit phenomenon, has found that women not only repay loans more often than men, but that when women control the money, their families were more likely to benefit from the income. And a study in the Philippines reported that when women have control over a couple's savings accounts, expenditures shift towards the purchase of family-targeted durable goods, such as washing machines or kitchen appliances.
So, despite the stereotype of women as shoe-obsessed spendthrifts, we're actually more responsible. And apparently this is true across generations and, largely, cultures. Why? There are a few theories. Says the Journal's Viviana A Zelizer,
Women are often held to higher standards of morality in spending. Despite jokes about women as spendthrifts, mothers (and grandmothers) are expected to consider their children's needs as paramount. Selfless spending becomes a hallmark of moral virtue....Kin, friends and other relations reinforce cultural expectations. In their study of a group of low-income single moms in the Philadelphia area, Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas observed a "norm of self-sacrifice" among the women they interviewed. Mothers, they report, "are harshly critical of other parents who buy…extras for themselves" rather than their children. Indeed, they found that a mother risked "social censure if she has nicer clothing than her children."
But isn't this true of fathers as well? or are they just impervious to the same censure and the social pressures to put kids first? Zelizer points out that while policy-makers are taking note of the disparity; journalists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn recently wrote that in developing nations, "Some of the most wretched suffering is caused not just by low incomes, but also by unwise spending–by men." As such, they recommend that programs target women.
But this, too, can be reductive — as Zelizer notes, however great it is that women are getting credit for responsibility, blaming the poor for "bad choices" is always a slippery slope. And reading these findings, it's hard not to wonder why men can't be instilled with some of the same sense of responsibility — since so much of the difference seems cultural, and societal.
The Gender Of Money [Wall Street Journal]
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