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household allocative system


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A term first coined by Jan Pahl, in a series of articles written in the 1980s, to describe the distribution of financial resources within households. The Pahl model provided a more sophisticated understanding of intrahousehold dynamics than had previously been attempted.

Five systems were identified for married couples, ranging from a ‘whole-wage system’ (where a single earner controls finances and dispenses a housekeeping allocation), to ‘independent management’ of separate incomes (with each partner taking responsibility for certain items of expenditure). ‘Pooling’ systems were either male-controlled or female-controlled—according to who managed and who had ultimate control over decisions on expenditure (see J. Pahl, Money and Marriage, 1989).

Recently the concept has been criticized on several grounds. It is evident, for example, that there are substantial difficulties involved in assigning couples to a predefined categorization of systems. In addition it is highly probable that systems are more flexible over time than has been recognized from cross-sectional data. Moreover, the categorization refers only to couple households, and not to more extended households or to inter-household allocations. And, finally, the only resources considered are financial. More recent contributions have therefore been concerned with extending and refining the Pahl model, to encompass more flexible allocative arrangements, different types of household, and a wider range of goods, services, and responsibilities than the purely financial. See Carolyn Vogler and Jan Pahl, ‘Money, Power and Equality in Marriage’, in Graham Allan (ed.), The Sociology of the Family (1999).

Subjects: Sociology.


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