Feminist research in urban studies and planning

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Are finance books for women bad for women?

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A recent post over at AlterNet by Manisha Thakor asks the question whether money books for women perpetuate the stigma that women are stupid about money. It’s worth taking a look at her breakdown, and I do think she’s nailed the arguments. You can also hear her discussing her ideas. I’m going to mix in my ideas with hers at the risk of being a sloppy so that I can get a blog post up here before people give up on me.

The long story short on differences in personal finance come down to some pretty big ticket-financial items:

1. The tendency of male parents to be able to walk away physically and financially from the expenses of childrearing, despite deadbeat laws. It can be very expensive for single mothers to try to get fathers to pay, both in terms of times and emotions, and raising children from school age to college–if that’s even an option–is a big expense.

2. Longer life spans to plan on in retirement. Women on average outlive their spouses or male counterparts by quite a bit.

3. Discriminatory lending and workplace practices lead women to more financial insecurity due to less job security, less job mobility, and more creaming on the part of lending agencies. Elizabeth Warren has been very vocal–which makes me admire her more–about the effects that the subprime industry has had on women.

Keep in mind that we are talking about group-level observations: we can all name financially successful women (including yours truly, thank heaven and Federal Student Loans, and the Meg Whitmans of the world) That’s not the point. The point is whether we have sufficient evidence from the data to encourage women to think differently about their finances than generic advice handed out as though the above differences don’t exist. The point, for me, is to confront the stigma. Sure there may be financially irresponsible women (as there are men), but women are working in a system that increases their likelihood of financial struggle.

It’s not you, iow, it’s the patriarchy, and since the patriarchy doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, equip yourself accordingly.


Written by Lisa Schweitzer

January 30, 2011 at 11:34 pm

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