business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports that a “longstanding marketing adage,” that women control 80 percent of household spending in the US, may not be all that it is cracked up to be.

According to the story, “as with many oft-repeated statistics, no one is sure where it originated ... in addition to having murky origins, the number appear to be wrong. Several recent surveys suggest that men have nearly equal say on spending, and that when men and women live together, both participate in spending decisions. In a survey conducted last year of nearly 4,000 Americans 16 and older by Futures Co., a London consulting firm, just 37% of women said they have primary responsibility for shopping decisions in their household, while 85% said they have primary or shared responsibility. The respective figures for men were similar: 31% and 84%.”

At the other end of the spectrum is a 2008 survey conducted by the Boston Consulting Group that “asked women to complete an online questionnaire that asked what percentage of household spending they control or influence. Their average answer in the U.S. was 73%. While that number was the one made public, the researchers also conducted an unpublished survey of men, who on average said they control or influence 61% of spending.

“In other words, both men and women are claiming to control the majority of spending decisions. That is partly explained by the millions of adults who don't live with another adult and who presumably make all their own spending decisions. But it also shows that two or more people can influence a purchasing decision, or think that they can.”
KC's View:
So let me get this straight.

One survey suggests that a large percentage of men and women say that they have primary spending control in their households, while another says they either share the responsibility or that the other person in the relationship has it.

Sounds situational to me, like it depends on when the question was asked.

There are plenty of times that I’d like to pass the buck (metaphorically speaking) to Mrs. Content Guy, just because my accepting blame/responsibility just isn’t a very good idea.

I do think that the recession may have had some impact on who controls the purse strings, as it had a greater impact on men than women - men may have more time to spend money, while women may be more responsible for earning it. And I believe that the correct response to such shifts isn;t to dumb down one’s marketing efforts so that they are non-specific and all-encompassing, but rather to be a lot smarter about who you are selling to, what you are selling, and how your products and services are relevant to their specific life circumstances.