Ruhr Economic Papers

Ruhr Economic Papers #258

Thrifty Wives and Lavish Husbands? – Bargaining Power and Financial Dicisions in Germany

by Matthias Keese

University of Duisburg-Essen, RGS Econ, 05/2011, 39 S./p., 8 Euro, ISBN 978-3-86788-301-6



Numerous contributions in the literature show that household outcomes are influenced by the distribution of intra-household decision power expressed by bargaining indicators such as relative income of the spouses. Since women can expect a longer retirement period, increased female bargaining power could lead to higher savings and wealth accumulation. In contrast, a household could consume more in the current period (e.g., to the benefit of the children) if gender differences in saving preferences had other rationales. Using two German datasets and different measures of bargaining power, my analysis gives evidence that female bargaining power has no or a negative influence on saving and wealth even when controlling for expectations of future support by public pension schemes of the spouses. In some specifications, I also find positive associations between the wife‘s bargaining power and attitudes towards current consumption proxied by repayments of consumer loans. Different results for subsamples of couples with and without dependent children support the validity of the “kids-do-better hypothesis” which indicates that mothers use their bargaining power to enforce higher current consumption in favor of the children.

JEL-Classification: D1, D91, J16

Keywords: Intra-household allocation; bargaining power; saving; debt; SOEP; SAVE