Nevena Kulic Giulia M. Dotti Sani

Within-couple distribution of economic resources. A critical review of extant studies and avenues for future research

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The distribution of economic resources in couples has been widely researched in both economics and sociology since the 1960s. This article reviews the two lines of research starting from unitary models of behavior and encompassing bargaining theory, the relative resource approach, collective goods and transaction cost theory. Furthermore, we contribute to the literature by suggesting ways of enhancing classic theories through new perspectives. Specifically, we discuss how (a) preferences, (b) macro-level characteristics such as institutional and economic conditions, and (c) meso-level factors like networks and extended families, can deepen our understanding of how economic resources are allocated within couples. Finally, we argue that to overcome the idealized vision of social reality, typical of mainstream research on intra-household financial sharing, it is crucial to incorporate the variation of experiences of contemporary families − in terms of socio-demographic characteristics such as class, race, sexual orientation, partnership type or children − into future studies on intra-household distribution of economic resources.


  • gender roles
  • sharing of economic resources within-couples
  • bargaining and relative resources
  • preference theory
  • contemporary families


Article first page

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