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What do women control in spending, really?

Maura Schreier-Fleming of AllBusiness asks, "So What if Women Don't Really Control the Household Purse Strings?"

Her article is a rant on a statistic that gets bandied about that says women control (or influence, she left that part off) 80-85% of the household spending in America.

The key is the word "influence" which is how most respected journalists report that stat. Women don't control that much spending across the board... well, some may but for the most part, we're a team with our significant other and we certainly influence that much spending. Or, do we?

Here's the truth - women have been responsible for managing the household tasks and pantry for many, many years. While there is no real study that proves we "control" the spending associated with that (or, if there is and you can cite it for me, please do!)... it stands to reason that the person who manages the household buying is in control. In my house, Tom defers to me on a regular basis. "Whatever you want," he'll say when we're shopping and we need to choose one item over another.

For larger purchases - cars, microwaves, etc - I'm not particular, but Tom would never buy one without consulting me. And, vice-versa.Gazing-beyond-today

To Maura I say this - we may not be able to go back and discover where that 80-85% stat comes from, but... it stands as a reference, written by someone to qualify the power women have over the household purse. Was it 'made up'? Apparently so. However, I believe the best way to say it is: women control or INFLUENCE the majority of household spending. Because, truthfully, that's a powerful place to be. Back when my Mom was a homemaker, she controlled ALL... which was very unusual. Even back when I was a young wife and Mom, many of my friends gave all control to their husbands. Not I. I had control of probably 90% of spending, including life insurance and the mortgage.

As women gained more confidence in the workplace, more confidence in being a part of the economy (moms who are Dr. Mom, CEO of the kitchen and bath, CFO and more), during the latter years of the 20th century, we began asking for more input in all household spending and our partners, for the most part, were happy to turn over many of those tasks to us - thereby giving us 'control'.

Maura is 'shocked' that the 80-85% stat is not 'true' and cannot be sourced. I would recommend she accept that stats are often invented, by respectable sources... and consider the possibility of what it means - that women count. Don't get me wrong - I've cited the stat numerous times and accepted that my sources (like Martha Barletta - author of Marketing to Women) was correct when she said it. As time went on, I realized that no one had the right number - every article quoted the stat differently - and while I began to wonder if it was substantiated by any study or report, I knew the best way to add it to my writing was to add the word "influence"... because, we do influence household spending on an average, I think, of that 80-85%. Some people say it's even higher.

Maura says, "It could be that the word control means different things to different people. When Barletta says that "women handle 80% to 90 % of spending and purchasing for the household" maybe she means just that. Aren’t women handling purchasing when they’re paying the bills? Maybe that’s what she means. Paying the bills isn’t control though. It’s just doing more work."

Really? Paying the bills is as close to control as you get. Ask any CFO.

To give credit where credit is due, Maura wrote her rant after reading a WSJ article that said, "There is never any sourcing of the number..." And, "It's become accepted folklore." Those quotes by Ira Mayer, publisher of the Marketing to Women newsletter. 

I've made up stats - and said so. If they were subsequently quoted by others, without noting they were my version of the facts... well, all I can say is, I offered them as an opinion based on my education, my experience, and my beliefs. That's half the battle in citing statistics.

Or, is half too much?


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ecofairtrade gal

Controlling/handling/managing the household spending isn't really a bad thing no matter how high the percentage is. Mothers or women household heads are the experts around the house. They know which products are best for the family because they care deeply for the sake of everyone. I can really give praises to women who work hard for the sake of their family.

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