His Money Is Theirs, and Her Money Is Hers Alone: Household Money Management in Two-Partner Russian Households

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Alya GUSEVA, Boston University, USA
Dilyara IBRAGIMOVA, Higher School of Economics, Russia
Using semi-structured interviews with 156 non-poor heterosexual couples, we investigate household money management and domestic power dynamics in contemporary Russian two-partner families. During the Soviet period, it was women who typically controlled the domestic purse in urban families: husbands were expected to give most if not all of their cash wages to their wives who would then make purchases to meet household necessities, similar to how money has been historically managed in American working-class households. Contemporary Russian household money management is changing in response to the neoliberal market reforms, including labor market and welfare policy changes as well as the rise of neo-conservative gender ideology. For example, following the resource perspective, when husbands' income increases significantly, they assume control over all or most of the family money. In this paper we explore money management in a small group of Russian couples with a breadwinner husband and a working wife, where the husband provides for the family needs, and the wife's income - usually a much smaller one -- goes to cover her own expenses. Wives value their incomes and view them as means of empowerment. Instead of a traditional conceptualizing of marital power as an ability to exert influence and control (whether because of resources or decision-making prerogatives), we shift the attention to power as autonomy -- an ability to evade control, and exercise some independence. While recent analyses of money management in Western families point to growing financial independence of spouses via "separate purses", we draw attention to an emerging trend of hybrid traditional-progressive money management among Russian spouses, and discuss its implications for intrahousehold gender inequality.