Sunday, January 10, 2010

Naomi Wolf on women in bankruptcy--what do you think?

In this Project Syndicate piece, Wolf wonders why so many middle class women are going into bankruptcy.  A million middle class women will file for bankruptcy this year, she says, finding the number shockingly large.  She offers to potential reasons for these financial troubles a) women being enticed by luxury goods manufacturers and spending beyond their means and b) middle class women being reluctant to learn about and discuss money (finding it "unfeminine"), and expecting marriage to rescue them financially.

I find this interesting for two reasons.  I think reason "a" is equally likely to apply to men, and would be interested to hear how the number of middle class men filing for bankruptcy compares to women.  Men might not be getting into trouble on their wardrobes, but aren't they equally likely to get cars, electronics, and apartments they can't afford?  As for "b", while I agree many middle class women might not be getting the financial education they need from an early age, I'm not so sure it has anything to do with waiting for a husband.  I know a number of young, middle class women who have gotten themselves in financial trouble, but most of them have recognized that the men their age are equally financially insecure.  Marriage in the past generally involved a financial transfer from men to women, but that was before birth control, female career investment, and the decline of shotgun marriages (see Akerlof Yellen and Katz).  I don't know very many middle class women today who view marriage as a financial escape valve, but maybe my sample is wrong.  Do you?  What do you think about this article?
[hat tip to Woodstock]

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