Money, Power and Gender Inequality in Russian Households
Alya Guseva (Boston University)
Dilyara Ibragimova (Higher School of Economics, Moscow)
In the vast majority of Soviet urban families, family budgets were managed by women: husbands were expected to give most if not all of their cash wages to their wives who would then make purchases to meet household necessities, similar to how money has been managed in American lower-income households. This was a direct outcome of Soviet social and economic policies, which aimed at undermining the traditional household with its reliance on the male breadwinner by keeping wages low, tying masculinity to men's work in the service to the state, making women dependent for support on the state rather than individual men and supporting the formation of Soviet women's identity as mother-workers, solely responsible for reproducing the household. Most household income went to pay for necessities, the chore that befell women by extension of their central role in the household.
We want to understand what happens to money in today's post-communist households at a time when Soviet-era gender identities have been put to a serious test amidst a neoliberal market reform and a revival of a conservative patriarchal ideology. The near-universal employment of both genders and the ubiquity of two-earner families has been replaced by a greater variety of family models including the emergence of breadwinner-housewife families, particularly where there are small children, since the state is no longer expected to provide subsidized nursery and childcare. Our previous work found that the majority of Russian households reported that they pool money together and manage it jointly, but also hinted at the rise of male control over household resources in certain types of families. In this project we try to distinguish between day-to-day management on the one hand (i.e. grocery shopping and paying the bills) and control over money on the other (i.e. having final say over large purchases), the latter more indicative of marital power. We also investigate instances when spouses characterize their monetary arrangements differently from each other, or when they report strain or frequent conflicts over money, and we analyze these cases through the lens of relational work, involving delicate balancing of multiple pressures. Our analysis draws on both survey data (RLMS-HSE dataset 2013) and interviews with a convenience sample of 150 heterosexual couples.