Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 4 Issue 2 (May 1994), Pages fmi-fmi, 77-144

Distributive justice in marriage: Equality or equity? (pages 101-114)

Abstract

Experimental studies of distributive justice suggest that men prefer an equity rule for allocating rewards, whereas women prefer equality. These differences are likely to carry implications for distributive justice in the context of marriage. There is a popular view in Western societies that marriage should be regarded as a partnership of equals, and this is also an implicit assumption in microeconomic accounts of the family. However, inequality between spouses is still commonplace, with the husband more likely to have overall financial control and greater access to money for personal spending (PSM). This paper investigates the issue of sharing in marriage, with particular reference to PSM, using data from an in‐depth interview study supplemented by some follow‐up questionnaires. The participants were 13 women and nine of their partners, mainly ‘middle class’ and aged between 30 and 50. After classifying each couple's system of financial management, the paper focuses upon eight couples with a philosophy of sharing. The findings show that, despite attempts to equalize outcomes for both partners, a sense of ‘ownership’ associated with having earned the money seemed to render it more salient than other, non‐financial contributions to the marriage. As a result, patterns of control and personal spending appeared to be based upon equity rather than equality.

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