The economic well-being of married women in a comparative perspective: The effect of income, work and union on financial satisfaction.

Kulic, Nevena (2011) The economic well-being of married women in a comparative perspective: The effect of income, work and union on financial satisfaction. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

PDF - Doctoral Thesis


The thesis looks at three major determinants of economic well-being of a modern woman: 1) individual financial resources 2) decisions about work and career, 3) the choice of partnership. The economic well-being is thus reflected in both individual achievements (income and work) and collective conditions (partnership). I compare the situation in five European countries- Italy, Denmark, France, United Kingdom and Ireland using the data on perceived individual financial satisfaction. In the first chapter, I investigate how economic well-being of women changes with the presence of their personal income. Economics suggests various theories that explain the way family performs its functions and determine the well-being of its members. The theory of Gary Becker idealizes family seeing it as a rational unit where both wife and husband aim at the maximization of family resources. On the other hand, the bargaining perspective highlights that the household behaviour depends largely on family dynamics and a bargain between the partners. There is large empirical evidence against unitary models of household behavior and this chapter presents another contribution to the relevant empirics. I further enrich the analysis by: 1) incorporating the social context in explaining the bargaining between partners and woman’s economic well-being, 2) testing the unified model of household behaviour at different household income levels. The second chapter goes beyond the current studies on woman’s economic independence. Economic theory is rather limiting because it relies only on income in explaining the economic well-being of women. The sociological perspective is broader because it encompasses the employment patterns, future career prospects and commitment to personal occupation (Gerson, 1993, Hakim, 2000). I employ diversity of work choices and career orientation in the analysis of woman’s economic well-being and her financial position within family. Career stability and attachment to work are analysed and compared to a choice of a more flexible path in various European countries. Flexibility is popular in globalized labour markets and is a frequent choice for women because it offers them the opportunity to balance work and family. But how much is it really beneficial for women themselves? I hypothesize that it is not relative incomes or pure employment that matter the most for woman’s economic wellbeing but more likely the choice of relatively continuous and full-time working careers. I also analyse the value of a full time homemaking as a career, so called ‘marriage career’ for woman’s well-being. The results are commented considering the potential intra-household dynamics. In the third chapter, economic bargaining perspective is enriched with the transaction costs approach (Pollak, 1985) and the theories of money management (Pahl 1983, Treas 1993) to deal with the differences in income sharing between married and cohabiting couples. There is a growing tendency to see cohabitation as an equivalent alternative to marriage and I investigate how different these two unions are for woman’s economic well-being. The type of union as a governing structure is a collective determinant of woman’s economic well-being that adds to the bargaining process.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Sociology and Social Research (within the School in Social Sciences, till the a.y. 2010-11)
Subjects:Area 13 - Scienze economiche e statistiche
Area 14 - Scienze politiche e sociali
Repository Staff approval on:24 May 2011 14:04

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