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Individualization and models of financial management within families

Jan Pahl

This article examines changing patterns of money management in the UK and elsewhere and argues that couples are becoming more individualised in their approach to finances. It draws on both quantitative and qualitative data and considers some of the implications of individualization, using the example of paying for children and childcare. It sets this data in the context of broader debates about individualization in the welfare state. The conclusion is that independent management of money may give both partners a sense of autonomy and personal freedom – so long as their incomes are broadly equivalent. However, if the woman’s income drops, for example when children are born, while at the same time her outgoings increase, because she is expected to pay the costs of children, the situation may change. Individualization in money management can then be a route to inequality within the family.