Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gender and Reinvestment

I finally got around to reading a recent (maybe not that recent anymore) issue of Newsweek covering the global status of women. I was heartened to see the many countries where women have been elected to the top executive office (so long as I ignored America's baffling absence in this category).  But what's been repeating in my mind since I read it? This passage:
Economies flourish when women are included, in no small part because women reinvest some 90 percent of their income into communities and family, compared with the less than 40 percent reinvested by men.
Is that because we love to shop?

No, I'm serious.  Maybe I'm falsely applying a western, American lens to that statement (well, I'm surely applying a western, American lens).  Historically, men were sole-breadwinners. Women tended to the domestic sphere. Men worried about investments. Women worried about groceries, clothes, and Christmas gifts.  My close male friends growing up worked hard to earn money to buy cars from their parents and were taught the value of the dollar. One peek at my finances will indicate that this lesson didn't really get imparted to me.  Women now make up a majority of undergraduate and graduate students and keep growing in numbers in health and education employment areas. While this seems tied to a rise in two-earner households, perhaps eventually, you'll see more woman-breadwinner households (like mine).  But guess what I don't do? Invest. In anything. The market, my 401k, nada.

I'm assuming a TON of data in making this argument and I'm not lifting a finger to see if any exists to support my theory.  But I know that I hear on NPR that flagging consumer confidence (ie: we aren't buying enough) is hampering our economic recovery.  And we aren't buying enough because all we did was spend the last 10-15 years buying stuff [we couldn't afford] and now we're slowing down a bit.

So, women reinvest their income into their communities and family. We shop more. We leave it in locally owned businesses, big box stores, and at school bake sales. That's great for the economy but what does it do for our own financial security?