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The Gender Wage Gap Can Start As An Allowance Wage Gap

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In recent years we’ve heard more and more about the wage gap: what causes it, who it affects, and how big the gap really is. Recent research confirms a related, growing trend: that the wage gap starts when we’re (very) young.

  • According to a study released earlier this summer by BusyKid, an allowance app for kids, boys ages 5 to 17 received an average weekly allowance of $13.80, while girls in the same age bracket earned less than half—just $6.71.
  • A Santander study showed that boys ages 5 to 15 receive more money than girls for chores and for demonstrating good behavior.
  • Girls spend hours more per week on household chores, but boys are 15% more likely to be rewarded 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—it’s also the fact that this disparity reinforces 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 extra conscious of the causes and impact of this broader disparity.

The obvious solution is basic math: make sure allowance is equal between genders. Though age differences may play into it, kids should be getting the same allowance as their other gendered counterparts. But the causes and impact of this gap are important to address as well. Tackle the root causes of the gap to start counterbalancing 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 prejudice that “women can’t handle money” is not backed up by facts.

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

Often, “masculine” chores like mowing the lawn or shoveling snow, are 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.

While “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 and will take more than simply paying your own kids equally. That’s why it’s so important to challenge the underlying beliefs that drive our tendency to reward girls less for more work. By keeping this conversation out in the open for kids to participate in, too, you’ll help insure that they grow up not just treated fairly, but with the expectation that equal pay should be a given—and that’s how generational change can happen.

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