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How does mum manage? Investigating the financial circumstances of mothers in lower income working families

Warburton Brown, Chris (2011) How does mum manage? Investigating the financial circumstances of mothers in lower income working families. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This study draws on in-depth semi-structured interviews with seventeen partnered mothers in Newcastle upon Tyne. All the study households contained a full time wage earner and had an income between 60 and 85% of the national median household income. The aims of the study were: 1) to establish how interviewees managed life on a limited income, both financially and emotionally 2) to investigate how this was connected to sources of household income, negotiations with their partner, and personal beliefs about money and gender 3) to discover how these women experienced and understood their own material deprivation and their role as household financial managers. Previous studies of intra-household income have looked at the whole population or those on benefit, but mothers in this income bracket had never been studied before. Moreover, after a decade of tax credit reform and women-into-work policies significant changes in the financial circumstances of this group of households seemed likely. An approach which placed the lived experience of the interviewees at the centre of the study was taken, rooted in the feminist qualitative tradition. A new method for revealing the material deprivation of individual household members was also pioneered. The key finding is that women in this income group were likely to be materially poor, although living in households officially defined as ‘not poor’, and the way they related to their money is similar to poor women in previous studies. This resulted both from the general inadequacy of household incomes and from the way resources were distributed within the household, with women often at the bottom of the spending hierarchy. Contrary to the findings of most previous studies, women did not ‘tag’ certain streams of household income, such as reserving Child Benefit for children; instead they ensured children were protected from material deprivation by their own sacrifices, sacrifices not always shared with their male partner. The lower the household income, the more likely this was to happen. Other findings include widespread desire to undertake paid work if it fitted around caring responsibilities, a marked decline in the proportion of household income from male earnings, a strong tendency for the mother to be the sole manager of household finances and therefore the carrier of resulting stress, and a powerful discourse that men could not be trusted with money which further increased women’s burden of worry. The women interviewed had a high level of financial skill, demonstrating many strategies to make money stretch further, but usually resources were simply inadequate to meet all household needs. Policy recommendations recognise the vital importance of tax credits and argue for increasing household incomes through supporting good quality paid work that fits with caring responsibilities. It is argued that better measurement of intra-household income distribution is also needed. The cultural issues underpinning the unequal burden of self-sacrifice within families are harder to tackle, but some suggestions are made.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Poverty, poor, mothering, low income, lower income, tax credits, family money, intra-household resource distribution, bread-winning, household income, household financial management, women-into-work, the good mother, gender beliefs, gender roles
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HG Finance
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Supervisor's Name: Munro, Prof. Moira
Date of Award: 2011
Depositing User: Mr Chris Warburton Brown
Unique ID: glathesis:2011-2593
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 May 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:57
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/2593

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