Women rule the roost, and that's OK with men

BySharon Jayson, USA TODAY
September 25, 2008, 12:46 PM

— -- Around the house, women rule. And men aren'tputting up a fight about it, according to a study from the Pew Research Centerthat examines how gender and power play out at home and in the community.

Of 1,260 individuals surveyed this summer— either married or living together — womenwield more decision-making power at home. In 43% of couples, women made moredecisions — almost twice as many as men — inthe four areas Pew surveyed: planning weekend activities, household finances,major home purchases and TV watching.

Thesurvey also found 43% of men don't have the final say in any of thosedecisions; they either share decision-making or defer to theirpartners.

"Across all decision-making realms, it tilts to the woman,"says Rich Morin, lead author of the study, being released today.

"I wassurprised by the percentage of men who made none of the decisions in any of theareas. A significant percentage were just bystanders."

Such responses runcounter to societal beliefs, says Melinda Forthofer, director of the Institutefor Families in Society at the University of South Carolina-Columbia.

"Despite the fact that in our society, we have had this notion of malesas heads of households, we have seen the pattern that women tend to really bethe managers of the home."

And men don't seem to mind, she says: "Whenthey're not in the workplace, they're content to follow their partner'slead."

As for household finances, the Pew study found that couplesdisagree on who has the greater say. About 45% of women surveyed said theymanage the family's money; 37% of men said they manage it.

The surveydidn't ask couples whether they shared decision-making, but 31% volunteeredthat they do.

"It's encouraging how many decisions couples are makingtogether," says Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, anon-partisan research organization.

Older couples are more likely thanyounger couples to make decisions together, the study found. More than a thirdof those 65 or older said they share decision-making in at least three of thefour areas; in couples under 30, 42% said they don't share any of thosedecisions. Just 8% of couples overall said they make decisions together in allfour areas.

"We'd all like to believe we're moving toward genderequality — not just in the workplace but in the home," Morinsays. "There's evidence that men are doing more around the house these days,but when it comes to absolute equality in decision-making, it's the exception,not the rule, in the typical American couple."

READERS: Who makes thedecisions in your home?

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