The Gender Wage Gap Can Start As An Allowance Wage Gap


November 8, 2018


The gender wage gap could actually start as an allowance wage gap.

You may have heard a lot about the gender wage gap. But what causes it? Who does it affect? And how big is the gap really? Research confirms that this divide actually starts when we’re (very) young.

  • Boys ages 5 to 17 received an average weekly allowance of $13.80. Girls in the same age bracket earned less than half that—just $6.71. (According to a summer 2018 study released by BusyKid, an allowance app for kids.)
  • A Santander study showed that boys ages 5 to 15 receive more money than girls for chores and for good behavior.
  • Girls spend hours more per week on household chores. Yet, parents are 15% more likely to reward boys more for the same work, says a study from University of Michigan.

When it comes to the allowance wage gap, the picture is bleak. But it’s not just the actual difference in income that’s harmful, though. This disparity reinforces the expectations that women won’t be paid equally for equal work as adults. Parents probably aren’t giving out different allowances intentionally. But that makes it all the more important to be aware of the causes and impact of this broader disparity.The obvious solution is basic math: make sure the allowance is equal between genders. And tackle the root causes to counterbalance it:

Challenge internal biases about which gender is “good with money.”

Your daughter may actually be more responsible with money than your son. Studies suggest that females, even as children, exhibit healthier spending, saving, and charity habits. The idea that “women can’t handle money” is not backed up by facts.

Challenge the idea that “women’s work” is easier.

More “masculine” chores like mowing the lawn or shoveling snow, are often considered more difficult than what can be dubbed “women’s work”: cleaning, organizing, helping in the kitchen. Ask yourself why you think this. If one kid spends an hour scrubbing countertops and washing dishes while another kid mows the lawn outside for the same period of time, is one of them really working “harder”?

Assign allowance chores equally.

“Women’s work” shouldn’t be considered easier. It doesn’t make sense to stick boys with “masculine” chores and girls with “feminine” ones. Spread chores evenly between genders and responsibilities. And, try to keep pay balanced even if your kids’ choices end up different than planned.

Give girls as many opportunities to earn extra money as boys.

In the BusyKid survey, not only did boys earn bigger allowances, they also earned more bonus money than girls. Make sure to give girls any higher paying bonus opportunities that you’re offering boys.

Don’t have these conversations behind closed doors.

Talking about the gender wage gap in allowances is a great way to start the conversation about financial gender inequality. After all, what will get kids’ attention better than talking about allowance?

Though this research focuses on allowance cash “income,” these gender-balanced strategies can apply to similar “currencies” like TV time, sleepovers, special treat candy, and more.

Like the gender wage gap in adults, the allowance wage gap is complicated. It will take more than simply paying your own kids equally to avoid it. That’s why it’s so important to challenge the underlying beliefs that drive our tendency to reward girls less for more work. Including kids in this conversation out in the open will help insure that they grow up not just being treated fairly, but also with the expectation that equal pay should be a given—that’s how generational change happens.

Article by Katie Simon

Katie Simon Katie Simon is a writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Business Insider, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, and elsewhere. She earned a BA in creative writing and marketing at New York University and an MA in nonfiction writing at University of East Anglia in England. She is from Boston, MA.

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