Financial Individualization Among Married Couples in the United States, 1992–2016

Nicole Kovski , University of Washington, Seattle
Marieka Klawitter, University of Washington, Seattle
Leigh Anderson, University of Washington, Seattle

Our research documents the individualization of financial arrangements among U.S. married couples. Separate finances offer a degree of financial autonomy for each spouse, and in some cases reflect a generational shift in preferences and economic gender roles. However, some scholars express concern that separate finances may reproduce traditional gendered inequalities in partnerships and ultimately mean less redistribution within households. Using pooled cross-sectional data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, spanning from 1992 to 2016, we find that a larger portion of married couples have kept money separate. This increase cannot be explained by compositional changes over time in couples’ earnings, employment, levels of educational attainment, race, childbearing behaviors, and marital history. Both men and women were more likely to keep liquid assets in individually-owned accounts over time. However, the uptrend was steeper for men than women, especially among key groups (e.g. couples with children in which females were not fully-employed).

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality