Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 2019: intra-household distribution of resources

Looks at how couples organise their income and financial responsibilities and how they conduct financial decision-making.

Chapter 1 – Introduction

This report presents findings from the Intra-Household Distribution of Resources module within the 2019 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey (SSA). It provides valuable insight into how couples in Scotland organise their income and financial responsibilities and how they conduct financial decision-making. In addition, it provides evidence on the restrictions that exist in people's everyday living due to a lack of money or resources by exploring who in Scottish society is not able to afford basic essentials or take part in leisure activities. The fieldwork for SSA 2019 was completed on 18th March 2020 before the COVID-19 lockdown was put in place in Scotland. The key questions the report aims to address are:

  • How do couples who live together organise their financial income between them? Are there differences between how men's and women's income is organised or in whose name assets are held? 
  • How do couples who live together divide decision-making on spending, and whose money is used for different types of expenditure? Do people feel that the amount an individual within a couple earns should determine their personal spending ability?
  • What restrictions exist in people's everyday living due to a lack of money or resources?
  • How do views and experiences differ between different subgroups in society? 

Data is available for Scotland on the resources of families and households, such as that collected by the Family Resources Survey (FRS), however, this data does not explore how decisions are made within households. For the first time questions on this subject were included in SSA providing a new and unique opportunity to understand where Scotland currently stands in relation to intra-household gender equality in the sharing of household resources. They will also provide important insights into gender equality within households and on the restrictions a lack of money or resources have on people's everyday living. 

Policy context

Equality for women is at the heart of the Scottish Government's vision for a fairer Scotland but financial gender inequality still exists in Scotland as underlined by the size of the gender pay gap and high poverty rates, especially for single women with children. Whilst the median gender pay gap for all employees in Scotland reduced slightly from 15.0% in 2018 to 14.3% in 2019, the gender pay gap for those in full-time employment increased from 5.6% to 7.1% in the same period. Scotland cannot have true gender equality if women continue to be paid less than men. 

The Scottish Government published a Gender Pay Gap Action Plan[1] in March 2019 which includes over 60 actions to tackle the root causes of the gender pay gap that exist at key stages in a woman's life and address women's financial inequality. It outlines a whole system approach across the lifecourse and across public, private and third sectors.

Evidence shows that a higher time input to informal caring, lack of high quality part-time and/or flexible working opportunities, the under-utilisation of skills, lack of progression opportunities and traditional occupational segregation, all work to limit many women's employment choices to low-paid, part-time work. All these factors have been significant contributing factors in the persistence of the gender pay gap. 

Publicly available data on earned income, such as that from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE), is collected and reported on an individual basis allowing for a reasonable picture of the differences in pay between men and women. This data provides a basis for gender pay gap reporting. However, in order to understand the financial situation of an individual it is often seen as more representative to think about total household income, which is the sum of individual incomes from all adults in the household combined with other sources of income such as Social Security benefits. This approach assumes that income is divided equally between household members but in reality, the subsequent distribution of income within the household is likely to be a much more complex picture. The key data source on household income in Scotland is the Family Resources Survey which provides detailed information on the total and component elements of household income, but it does not help us to understand how income is distributed within the household and the resultant impacts on women, men and children in terms of their ability to make financial decisions and spend money. This survey work helps to fill that gap.

The Scottish Government is acting on the recent recommendations of the National Advisory Council on Women and Girls – a group that advises the First Minister on what is needed to tackle gender inequality in Scotland. This includes establishing a new Gender Equality Taskforce in February 2020 to advance equality in education and learning, and progressing, via the First Minister's National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership, the commitment to incorporate the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) into domestic legislation. The Scottish Government has also funded a range of organisations that work to achieve gender equality through the Promoting Equality and Cohesion Fund (PECF). These organisations work across a broad range of policy areas, including tackling discrimination, hate crime and increasing equality of opportunity.

The findings from this report will be an important contribution to the wider policy context of gender equality, but they also serve a specific purpose in aiding the development of a new Gender Equality Index being created by the Scottish Government. The aim of the Index is to measure Scotland's progress over time on gender equality, using statistical indicators to inform a number of domains and covering a range of policy areas. The Index has been developed through a working group which includes a range of different women's organisations. The domains being developed, each of which is expected to comprise around 6-8 statistical indicators, are: work; money; time; knowledge; health and power.

In addition, there will be a Justice 'satellite' domain which will sit outside of the main index but will provide important information on areas where the objective is elimination rather than equivilisation of the genders, for example violence against women.

The findings contained in this report will provide one set of measures to inform the 'money' domain of the new Index. The Index will be made publicly available and will be particularly useful to a wide range of users who have an interest in gender equality, including policy makers, the media and the public. The aim is to produce an up-to-date picture of many of the facets of gender equality and is designed to track change over time. The Scottish Government expects to publish a baseline Index in late 2020.

Methodology and analysis

Run annually by the Scottish Centre for Social Research since 1999, the Scottish Social Attitudes survey provides a robust and reliable picture of changing public attitudes over time. SSA is a face-to-face survey which uses a random sample of all those aged 16 and over living anywhere in Scotland (including the Highlands and Islands). Fieldwork for SSA 2019 began on 30th August 2019 and ceased on 18th March 2020, slightly earlier than planned due to the COVID-19 outbreak. A pause in fieldwork took place for five weeks between 6th November 2019 and 12th December 2019 inclusive because of the General Election. Alongside the questions on intra-household distribution of resources, modules were also included on attitudes to government, minimum unit pricing, the European Union and violence against women and girls. 

The SSA 2019 sample size was 1,022 completed interviews[2]with an overall response rate of 41%, from an issued sample of 2,790 addresses. Data are weighted in order to correct for non-response bias and over-sampling, and to ensure that they reflect the age-sex profile of the Scottish population. Further technical details about the survey are published in a separate SSA 2019 technical report.

All couples who were living together who took part in SSA 2019 were asked questions on how they organise their income and financial responsibilities, and how they make financial decisions about spending and whose money to use, which are discussed in Chapters 2 and 3 of this report. The questions in Chapter 4 on the restrictions in people's everyday living due to a lack of money or resources were asked of all respondents on SSA 2019 regardless of their relationship status. Respondents who said they are in a same sex relationship were included in the analysis across all three chapters.

Analysis across the report is conducted by a range of different population subgroups. This includes gender, age, relationship status, whether people are living with a disability, and religious identity which are all listed as protected characteristics in the Equality Act (2010). However, it is not possible using SSA data to explore differences by ethnicity or sexual orientation due to the sample size of the survey and the relatively low prevalence of minority ethnic people or those not identifying as heterosexual within the Scottish population.

All percentages cited in this report are based on the weighted data and are rounded to the nearest whole number. All differences described in the text (between different groups of people) are statistically significant at the 95% level or above, unless otherwise specified.[3] This means that the probability of having found a difference of at least this size, if there was no actual difference in the population, is 5% or less. The term 'significant' is used in this report to refer to statistical significance and is not intended to imply substantive importance. Further details of significance testing and analysis are included in the separate technical report.

Report structure

The remainder of this report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2 explores how couples who live together in Scotland organise their income and financial responsibilities.
  • Chapter 3 explores how couples who live together in Scotland make financial decisions together on how much to spend and whose money to use for different types of purchases.
  • Chapter 4 explores restrictions in people's everyday living due to a lack of money or resources. 
  • Finally, Chapter 5 summarises the main conclusions of the report.



Back to top