Academic journal article Family Relations

Financial Arrangements and Relationship Quality in Low-Income Couples

Academic journal article Family Relations

Financial Arrangements and Relationship Quality in Low-Income Couples

Article excerpt

This study explored the association between household financial arrangements and relationship quality using a representative sample of low-income couples with children. We detailed the banking arrangements couples utilize, assessed which factors relate to holding a joint account versus joint and separate, only separate, or no account, and analyzed the association between fiscal practices and men's and women's relationship quality. The majority of couples held joint accounts, though over one-quarter also have separate accounts; nearly one-tenth have no account. Joint bank accounts were associated with higher levels of relationship quality on numerous dimensions, though more consistently for women than men. Individualistic arrangements appeared to undermine women's relationship satisfaction and reduce feelings of intimacy, sexual compatibility, and satisfaction with conflict resolution.

Key Words: bank account, cohabitation, financial arrangements, low-income, relationship quality.

Tensions over finances are a key predictor of marital distress (Dew, 2008) as well as the dissolution of both marriages and cohabiting unions (Amato & Rogers, 1997; Smock, Manning, & Porter, 2005). Even though the body of literature on how American couples arrange their fiscal resources is expanding (Heimdal & Houseknecht, 2003; Kenney, 2004; Treas, 1993), to date relatively few studies have explored the associations between financial management and relationship quality. Furthermore, the research that exists has focused disproportionately on married (or remarried) coupies and those that are middle class (Coleman & Ganong, 1989; Dew; Papp, Cummings, & Goeke-Morey, 2009; see Kenney for an exception). Yet financial strains are pervasive among low-income families, who often have few assets to weather unexpected employment gaps, medical bills, or other emergencies (Bucks, Kennickell, & Moore, 2006; McKernan & Ratcliffe, 2008). Clearly, a better understanding of the ways fiscal arrangements might be associated with or contribute to family strain, especially among less advantaged families, is warranted.

The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 set aside $150 million per year for programs to promote marriage and responsible parenting (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006), through the Administration for Children and Families' Healthy Marriage Initiative. Educating disadvantaged populations about fiscal management is one component of marriage promotion activities. Funding is available to provide education in high schools on the value of budgeting and marriage education, and relationship skills programs are encouraged to include financial management in their curriculum. Federal and state governments have also implemented programs to encourage saving among low-income families. The Individual Development Account program promotes asset building among low-income families by providing incentives to establish bank accounts (McKernan, Ratcliffe, & Nam, 2010). Such efforts are motivated, in part, by research finding that most low-income families have minimal savings to tide them over in the face of a financial exigency (Caner & Wolff, 2004; McKernan & Ratcliffe, 2008). This shortage of assets can translate into difficulty meeting basic needs, less stable relationships, and inadequate investment in children's development and human capital (McKernan et al; Nam & Huang, 2009).

This study examines the association between men's and women's reports of household financial arrangements and various dimensions of relationship quality, using data from a representative sample of low-income couples with coresident children. We detail the banking arrangements utilized by married and cohabiting parents, including a category for couples where neither partner has a bank account. We then explore which factors are related to couples' banking arrangements. Finally, we analyze the association between fiscal practices and men's and women's relationship quality. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.