At Home, Women Rule

In this study, not only did women make more demands than their husbands, they also got their way more often. (Image credit:

Men might strut their stuff on Wall Street and on Capitol Hill, but across America women wield the power on the home front.

A survey by the Pew Research Center, announced today, finds that among 43 percent of couples the woman makes more of the decisions in the domestic realm than men do.

By contrast, men make more of the decisions in only about a quarter of all couples. And about three-in-ten couples split decision-making responsibilities equally.

The results support research published last year that found women have more power at home than their husbands. The past research was based on videos of the couples rather than self-reports about decisions, as is the case for the new study.

The results come from a survey of 1,260 individuals who were married or living as a couple. Respondents indicated if they or their partners had the final say in certain areas of decision-making.

These areas included choosing shared weekend activities, buying major things for the home, deciding what to watch on television and managing household finances.

Though participants weren't given the option to say they shared decision-making with partners, many said they jointly called the shots at home, in the following ways:

  • About half of the respondents said they jointly decide or had no fixed pattern for decisions about shared weekend activities and buying big things for the home.
  • About four-in-ten said the same about television choices, and about one-in-three said the same about managing the household finances.
  • For the 43 percent of men who don't have a final say in any of the four areas of domestic life, they either shared decision-making or deferred to their female partners.

Both genders tended to agree on who calls most of the shots at home in at least three household areas.

The exception was household finances. Forty-five percent of women said they are in charge of home finances, and 23 percent give that honor to men. Unbeknownst to men: Nearly 40 percent of the guys said they handled the expenses, with just 30 percent saying women did.

When it comes to power over the TV remote, in 27 percent of all couples, the woman decides what to watch on TV. The man decides in 26 percent of couples, and in about a quarter of all homes, what to watch is decided together.

Patterns of decision-making within couples varied little across most demographic variables (these usually include such categories as race, ethnicity and religious affiliation). For instance, two-thirds of all husbands in dual-income families reported making more money than their wives, with wives concurring with that statement. Even still, the woman has more say at home, regardless of her earnings, the survey found.

There was one exception and it has to do with age: Men and women 65 or older are twice as likely as those under the age of 30 to say they and their partner share equally in making family decisions.

Live Science Staff
For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.